When a fighter jet crashed into an apartment building Friday, Zack Zapatero dropped his tennis racket, picked up his iPhone 4S and started snapping pictures.
The 17-year-old junior at Cape Henry Collegiate School wasn't prepared for what happened next: One of his shots of the F/A-18D Hornet's burning fuselage was picked up by a TV station. And then by The Associated Press. And then by the world.
"We didn't realize that was going to be the defining image of the crash," said Dag Zapatero, Zack's father, noting that the photo appeared on the front pages of The Virginian-Pilot, The Washington Post, The Wall-Street Journal and other papers around the world.
"It was just a picture to us," he said.
Within minutes of forwarding the photo to his father, who forwarded it to WAVY-TV, Zack Zapatero found himself on CNN doing a live interview.
From there, the teen fielded calls from Fox News, the BBC and the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, where he appeared on air from his kitchen via Skype.
"I wasn't trying to get in the newspaper at all," said Zack, who had been playing tennis at Cape Henry Racquet Club when he saw the smoke plume from the crash. "I was just trying to get a picture of it. I knew I would never get another chance."
An error at the AP stole some of Zack's initial glory when the wire service credited the photo to another person. By Saturday, after conversations with Dag Zapatero, the AP issued a correction.
The father said Zack has made $1,000 off the photo so far: $500 from CNN and $500 from the AP. The teen also would be entitled to 50 percent of any money generated by the image in the future, according to his father.
More than the money, Zack Zapatero said, he enjoyed the experience of getting to tell his story. He's no longer worried about his college interviews.
"What's there to be nervous about now?" he said. "I've been on national television."
Reprinted with permission / The Virginian-Pilot