Unhappy Anniversary

DOUG KANTER/AFP/Getty Images

What an awesome image this photo is! (To get the full effect, click on it.)

The Twin Towers were not terribly beautiful when they stood over lower Manhattan for the thirty years of their lives: just two big awkwardly long rectangles on their sides stretching far above everything in their surroundings. They were  iconic, of course, but they achieved their stature cheaply, just by virtue of being the tallest things around.

In death, however, the Towers’ architecture has achieved a powerful iconicism of chaos and doom. The twisting, torn shards of its wrecked lattices look like ghostly hands reaching weakly for help, or bombed-out miniature cities–in a way, fractals of the larger destruction around them. How utterly ruined they were on that day! How totally devastated was their straight, clean sharpness!

The man in this photo, according to its official AFP caption, is calling out to see if any survivors answer. Patriots will quickly note the most alive looking object in the image: the American flag yet waving in the smoky sunlight. Eleven years on, you have to wonder what became of the land and home it represents.

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