About this photo (by Richard Drew), theologian Mark Thompson wrote:
Perhaps the most powerful image of despair at the beginning of the twenty-first century is not found in art, or literature, or even popular music. It is found in a single photograph.
I don't think it's an image of despair. But it is a more powerful image of 9/11 than any I have found in art, or literature, or music. Like so many of the thousands of images, we simply can't comprehend it wholly.
Ten years on we have no definitive, or even adequate, artistic response. Martin Amis gave us 'Mohammad Atta was very constipated.' Park Slope darling Jonathan Safran Foer went with some Haley Joel Osment bullshit...and a fucking flipbook of a Twin Tower jumper. Oliver Stone gave us Towering Inferno Redux. United 93 is nerve-racking, but not transformative. Even Don DeLillo, whose The Falling Man is sampled here, only managed to give us 15 pages actually about 9/11, and the rest is about compulsive gambling and modern art or some shit.
I think this might be because the events are so impossible to comprehend. Guys taking weeks of flight training, knowing it is all so they can kill themselves. Slitting pilots' throats with boxcutters. Flying airplanes into buildings. First, it seemed a tremendous and impossible accident--a plane crashing into the World Trade. Then another? What were we seeing? Was it a replay of the first? Listening to all the recordings in the first few minutes, no one knows what could be happening. It seemed impossible that the towers could collapse--how could modern American skyscrapers just crumble like that? Into nothing? Then those unbelievably fast, unbelievably dark clouds of smoke. The snowfall of ash, so much ash--all those buildings not reduced to chunks of rubble, but to all that unearthly dust. I saw the vestigal steel frame they called The Shroud. It was hard to believe that was all that was left of those two hugely massive buildings.
The World Trade Center was already an impenetrable part of the skyline. From far away they looked flat, dominating and looming yet almost insubstantial, changing color throughout the day from orange to fishscale-silver to absorbent black. Nearly featureless, brutalist, like monoliths. Up close their dizzying height, the steel frontage flying up, straight up.
And the jumpers: how can you hope to understand having to choose between burning to death or throwing yourself from eighty, ninety, a hundred stories up? About two hundred people did this. So when I look at that photo I see something I can't fathom.
If I see anything, I see Icarus. So much of 9/11 is Icarus: Mohammad Atta, the planes, the jumpers, the towers, America.
This year's remembrance swirls around what has changed, what hasn't changed, what have we learned, what haven't we learned. Forget all that noise. Listen. Remember. Try to grasp it.
Chapter 1 - A.M. Breakups / 005 - MHE / 9:03am - Clint Mansell/Kronos Quartet, Autolect, cLOUDDEAD / Clouds of Smoke (instrumental) - Call O' Da Wild / Icarus Falling Reprise - PSY/OPSogist / 9:59am-10:28am - Chris Craft, Brain Damage / Dead Flag Blues - godspeed! you black emperor / Snow (instrumental) - Roc Marciano