Photojournalist Who Witnessed 9/11 Not Celebrating bin Laden’s Death

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By J.K. YAMAMOTO, Rafu Staff Writer

Stan Honda

For photojournalist Stan Honda, 9/11 wasn’t just something that he saw on television.

On the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, Honda was told to go to Lower Manhattan because a plane had crashed into the World Trade Center. Not long after he arrived on the scene, the first tower collapsed.

Many of the pictures that Honda took for AFP (Agence France-Presse) became iconic — the Twin Towers in flames, dazed survivors completely covered with ash, rescue workers looking through the smoldering ruins.

But despite having witnessed the horrors of that day first-hand, Honda was not among those waving flags and chanting “USA!” last Sunday upon hearing that the mastermind of 9/11 was dead.

“I’m worried that the U.S. must resort to assassination in the case of Osama bin Laden,” Honda said in an email interview. “I think that if he were captured and brought to trial, the U.S. could show that it is a country that follows the rule of law.

“I don’t think killing is justifiable at any time. What does bother me is the celebrations that took place, as if the U.S. had won a war. It seems distasteful to celebrate a death. We criticize other societies that have similar practices.

“I think it is amazing that it took 10 years to find bin Laden. It really shows how difficult it is to wage a ‘war’ against a nebulous enemy.”

He added, “No matter that there are people that attack the country or its entities, we really need to show we can rise above unconstitutional detention and torture. Suspending portions of the Constitution to provide a ‘benefit’ to our ‘safety’ goes against what this country stands for.

“This, of course, happened over 60 years ago when constitutional protections were suspended for a specific group of people under the guise of ‘national security’ — the rounding up and detention of Japanese Americans.”

The video "Eyewitness" includes Stan Honda's 9/11 photographs.

In a video entitled “Eyewitness,” Honda — a Sansei whose parents were interned at Poston, Ariz., during World War II — examined the parallels between the treatment of Japanese Americans after Pearl Harbor and the treatment of Arab and Muslim Americans after 9/11. On his own time, he has traveled across the country to photograph the sites of the wartime camps.

A native of San Diego, Honda has also worked for the San Diego Union-Tribune, the Los Angeles Times, and Newsday in New York. He has covered such stories as the war in Iraq (where he photographed the bodies of Saddam Hussein’s sons Uday and Qusay), Hurricane Katrina, the trial of Michael Jackson, the funeral of Ronald Reagan, and the first terrorist attack on the World Trade Center in 1993.

Returning to the site formerly occupied by the Twin Towers, Honda photographed President Obama’s visit to New York on Thursday to place a wreath at Ground Zero and to meet with families of the victims.

“I’m glad he has not gloated,” Honda said. “The wreath-laying was purely for self-promotion, but compared to what the previous administration might have done, it wasn’t bad.”

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