Sunday, October 24, 2004

I stumbled across this picture on the internet; it shows the South Tower buckling and tipping over at the moment of the collapse.

Hidden in the crumbling hulk of the skyscraper are hundreds of people miliseconds from death.

The photo captures their last moment on Earth; the moment before they were pulverized and turned to ash.

I wonder how many lives are stored in that picture. I wonder how many thoughts, prayers, and screams are ingrained in that picture. It is staggering -- beyond our ability, in fact -- to calculate the immense amount of destruction encapsulated in that single image. We can try to imagine it, but the concept will always remain as an abstraction, beyond our grasp or comprehension.

It's the surreality of Sept. 11th that makes it so grotesquely fascinating. The colossal suffering and loss of life that took place that day is concealed by the spectacular, alien beauty of the images: the beauty of the airplane being absorbed into a wall of steel and glass; of the orange fireball blossoming outwards from the tower; of the line of smoke seared across the flawless sky; of the cascade of twisted wreckage steaking towards the streets below; of the silent billows of ash engulfing and blanketing the city in a coat of incinerated office building; of the papers and memos and reports swirling whimsically in the air.

Never has something been so beautiful and so horrific at the same time.