Each morning, Ben Sturner stands on the balcony of his Long Island City apartment, checking out the view of the Manhattan skyline to clear his mind.
On Thursday, when Sturner stepped outside at about 6:30 a.m., he was surprised to see a new addition to his view: a rainbow arcing out of the gray sky near the Freedom Tower.
"I just started taking pictures, not even thinking about 9/11," said Sturner, the 39-year-old founder of sports and entertainment marketing company Leverage Agency.
When he spotted the rainbow's end at the former site of the Twin Towers, he knew he had to share what he had seen.
Thursday brought heavy rain and flash floods to New York and Long Island -- dark weather the day before the anniversary of a dark moment in American history. Sturner said seeing the rainbow struck him as serendipitous and inspirational.
Sturner was in Boston at the time of the attacks and he remembered the panic and fear he felt waiting to hear from a friend who worked at the World Trade Center and wound up surviving.
Sturner first posted the photos on Facebook Thursday morning and then, after his friends began to share it, on Twitter.
"Amazing NYC Rainbow today. Originating from #worldtradecenter the day before #911," he wrote.
Sturner's original tweet has more than 1,800 retweets and the photos have been shared by media outlets as far away as Oregon. He's received positive emails and messages from Korea and Australia, he said.
"Thank you for this," one Twitter user from Missouri replied. "Gives me chills."
"Best Bday present in 14 yrs," another user from Connecticut wrote.
Sturner said he's just happy his photos touched so many.
"For such a sad day, it's nice to have a little bit of a shining light for people," Sturner said