Members of the 82nd Airborne duck away from the debris as a helicopter lifts off in Afghanistan
Members of the 82nd Airborne Division duck away from the debris being thrown into the air as a Black Hawk helicopter prepares to extract soldiers on a mission searching remote villages in southeastern Afghanistan.
(Rick Loomis / Los Angeles Times)
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L.A. Times photographers chronicle the effects of the war on terror

Look through the post-9/11 archives of Los Angeles Times staff photojournalists and read the stories behind each sliver of history.

Never forget. That is the solemn refrain repeated often after the devastation of 9/11.

In some ways, Times staff photojournalists cannot forget. The images they made on U.S. soil and abroad following that day captured the long progression of the war on terror. These pictures have left their mark not only on the archives of The Times but also on the memories of many of the journalists who photographed these moments.

Twenty years ago, 19 terrorists hijacked four commercial airliners and used them to take down New York’s World Trade Center towers and crash into the Pentagon. The attack claimed the lives of 2,977 people, and the wars that followed in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, Syria, Yemen and beyond killed nearly 1 million people, according to a Brown University report.

On Sept. 12, 2001, the United States staggered to its feet amid the devastation of the Al Qaeda attacks. But these photographers traveled to tell the stories of the then-budding war. Times photo editors asked Luis Sinco, Carolyn Cole, Robert Gauthier and Rick Loomis to discuss how they approached their photography.

A line of women in full burqas
Afghan women wait in line for food aid distribution from CARE International in Kabul, Afghanistan. Many of the women lost their husbands during Afghanistan’s 23 years of war.
(Rick Loomis / Los Angeles Times)

Rows of men lying face down in the dirt with their hands tied behind their backs
U.S. Marines detain a group of Iraqis after a night raid on a former police station Aug. 21, 2004, in Iraq. Many men said they had been held hostage by Iraqi militiamen because they wouldn’t cooperate with them.
(Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times)

A woman in a hijab raises her hands and cries
Hasiba Debagh grieves for her 8-year-old grandson who was killed while standing near U.S. troops on July 16, 2003, in the Yarmouk district of Baghdad. The boy was killed by a hand grenade thrown from a passing car. One U.S. soldier and seven Iraqi civilians also were injured.
(Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)

A group of people throw cash into the air
Friends and relatives of inmates at Abu Ghraib prison, about 20 miles outside Baghdad, toss handfuls of Iraqi dinar into the air Oct. 20, 2002. President Saddam Hussein had granted amnesty to hundreds of thousands of prisoners, causing chaos as relatives and friends stormed the grounds.
(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

A statue of Saddam Hussein with his arm raised in front of a burning building
The Iraqi National Olympic Committee building, behind a statue of Saddam Hussein, is set ablaze by Iraqis on April 9, 2003, the day U.S. forces arrived in Baghdad.
(Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times)

“Less than a month after the terrorist attacks on America on Sept. 11, 2001, I was in Afghanistan to witness the U.S. bombing campaign that helped the Northern Alliance take control of Kabul from the Taliban,” staff photojournalist Carolyn Cole said. “I returned many times to witness the changes as we poured money and military might into the country. I saw women training to be pilots and girls studying to be doctors.

“But I also saw the human toll caused by years of war. I felt it was my duty to document the impact US forces were having on the country and its people, just as I did in Baghdad before and during the bombing of Iraq, and later as the country descended into civil war.

“I spent over a decade covering the Middle East, where I was always shown generosity and hospitality. Despite anger toward the U.S. government, those I met didn’t hold my nationality against me, and most wanted their stories told.

“After witnessing so much tragedy in Afghanistan, Iraq and many other countries, I have turned my attention towards the environment. It, too, is in a state of crisis, which affects all of us, regardless of where we live, our religion or our language.”

A young woman in a headscarf and gray uniform stands with four other women seated around her
Shamina Ahmadi, center, pictured on Oct. 16, 2009, overcame her father’s objections to attending a midwife school by amassing a coalition of schoolteachers, the headmaster and others to appeal directly to her village’s all-male council of elders. Her father, a town cleric, opposed her going to the city of Bamian to study.
(Rick Loomis / Los Angeles Times)

A soldier lies on the ground yelling as other soldiers tend to him
Gabriel Watt, center, writhes in pain after being struck in the ankle by a rock blown into the sky when members of the 82nd Airborne detonated a cache of Russian-era rockets that were found inside a cave in the remote mountains southeast of Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan. One other soldier was struck by falling debris in the incident.
(Rick Loomis / Los Angeles Times)

A line of couples in wedding attire
About 150 couples gather at the Iraqi Youth Federation building in Baghdad, waiting to take buses to celebrate their marriages on Oct. 21, 2002. Most are too poor to pay for their weddings, so the state buys their suits and dresses, gives them a party and pays for two days in a hotel.
(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

A group of women and girls in head coverings
Thousands of Shiite Muslims mourn the death of slain Ayatollah Mohammed Bakir al Hakim at the Holy Shrine of Imam Mousa al Kadum on Aug. 31, 2003, in Baghdad.
(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

“I was pulled into an office and they told me that I was going to go to Iraq to cover Saddam Hussein’s election,” staff photojournalist Robert Gauthier said. “I guess Saddam sent out invitations to news organizations to come and cover his reelection campaign.

“I was just hoping to maybe somehow draw a connection between our lives here and the things that were happening there, maybe humanize the people that were directly affected by it. To try to strip away the politics and get into a more human side of it.

“I don’t know if really any of my images had any sort of deep, long effect on anybody, but I just think as part of the historical record. We were just trying to be honest and trying to tell the truth as best we could.”

A man hugs his mother as other people around them clap
A man is reunited with his mother as he leaves Abu Ghraib prison, about 20 miles outside Baghdad, on Oct. 20, 2002.
(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

A line of armed officers silhouetted in the dawn
An Afghan National Police member, left, takes a drag on a cigarette while joined by other police before a joint operation with U.S. military police on May 22, 2010, in Kandahar, Afghanistan. The operation was the biggest by coalition forces to date in volatile District 8, where the Taliban exerted considerable autonomy.
(Rick Loomis / Los Angeles Times)

Two boys faces seen through bullet holes in shattered glass
Two boys peek through bullet holes in the guard station window at the former Russian Embassy on Nov. 19, 2001, in Kabul, Afghanistan.
(Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times)

Marines point guns upward in a house
Marines clear a house in the insurgent stronghold of Fallujah, Iraq.
(Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)

Women and children hold their heads and wail
An Iraqi family grieves at the homecoming of three relatives killed by U.S. Marines on April 9, 2003, in Baghdad. The men did not stop their car upon a command in English from the Marines.
(Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times)

A Marine walks through a field
Marine 1st Lt. Shaun Miller makes his way through a field of poppies while on patrol in June 2008 in Afghanistan’s Helmand province. The Marines had spent much of May fighting in a Taliban stronghold with one of the world’s major opium production areas.
(Rick Loomis / Los Angeles Times)

“I flew back to L.A. for the holidays or just to get a breather, and then they wanted to send me back to New York after that to cover the holidays after 9/11,” former staff photojournalist Rick Loomis said. “On my way to New York, I stopped in Alabama to see my dad.

“And I got a phone call from the office and they said: ‘Hey, Rick, do you think instead of going to New York, you can just keep going and go to Afghanistan?’ And that was a shocker. I said yes, much to the chagrin of my dad.

“We were invading a country that that was being held at that time responsible for first sending people to create 9/11. And the story is really about the troops that I was with and … what they were facing. I went back to Afghanistan many, many times over the years. And, you know, it became more of an Afghan story…. For me personally, I just got I got swept up in the story … I was literally thrust into it.”

A girl with her face mostly covered by red cloth
A young girl shields her face while keeping a watchful eye on the happenings at Maslahk camp in Afghanistan, one of the largest internally displaced refugee camps in the world.
(Rick Loomis / Los Angeles Times)

Men march in formation in front of an officer saluting them
Police recruits are saluted as they march around the parade grounds at the training center in Kabul, Afghanistan. A multiethnic police force and army were being built in Afghanistan in hopes of promoting unity.
(Rick Loomis / Los Angeles Times)

A Marine stands guard, seen through a hole in shattered glass
A member of Charlie Company of the 1st Marine Division, 8th Regiment, watches out for enemy snipers amid the rubble of buildings in downtown Fallujah, Iraq.
(Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)

Two women in burqas walk outdoors
Life for the women of Afghanistan changed dramatically in the years after the fall of the Taliban in 2001. They were allowed to leave their homes without a male escort, attend school and find employment. Some women, like those shown here Aug. 13, 2009, in Kabul, still preferred to wear a burqa.
(Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times)

A dead man lies in the road as Marines walk past the body
Members of Charlie Company of the 1st Marine Division, 8th Regiment, walk past a dead insurgent during a battle in Fallujah, Iraq.
(Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)

A boy sits up amid rows of people bowed over on the floor in prayer
More than a thousand Iraqi men and boys gather for prayer at the Umm al-Qura Mosque on Oct. 11, 2002, in Baghdad.
(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

“I peered my head up over the edge of the roof with the other Marines and saw this RPG (rocket-propelled grenade) heading straight towards us,” staff photojournalist Luis Sinco said. “And I have confirmed this with other people since that it was like by some miracle, it veered away at the last second.

“After that RPG veered off, I just sat against the wall. Blake Miller, the Marlboro Marine, came from nowhere and he sat on a wall opposite for me. And I was just looking at him, and he started lighting a cigarette, so I basically just instinctively took a photo.”

A closeup of a Marine smoking a cigarette, his face covered in dirt
A member of Charlie Company of the 1st Marine Division, 8th Regiment, takes a cigarette break in the heat of battle in Fallujah, Iraq.
(Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)

Photo editing and introduction by Jacob Moscovitch.

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.

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