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.
I first became aware on September 11, 2001, that something was up, so to speak, while waiting for a B train to Rockefeller Center at the 59th Street Station in Manhattan. I was getting a slightly late start on the day, having just come from voting for Mark Green for Mayor to replace Rudolph Giuliani. I was feeling pleased with myself for doing my civic duty and confident that my vote would count, which, after election 2000, I didn’t take for granted any more.
The trains were moving through slowly that morning, which is not too terribly unusual. The southbound platform in particular was not moving at all; trains sat there with doors open, confused commuters standing half in, half out, and no sign of any chance for movement any time soon. I heard an announcement to the effect that no trains were going to Brooklyn because of–I wasn’t paying close attention, so I don’t recall if the phrase was “police action” or ” incident”–at the World Trade Center. It was probably the latter, though, perhaps, the word might even have been “emergency.” That would have been an unusual phrase to hear over the MTA intercom, and you’d think it would have stuck in the mind. Continue reading