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Feb. 15 2010 - 3:55 am | 494 views | 0 recommendations | 0 comments

In awe of new 9/11 tower collapse photos

33297870I’m probably not the first and I certainly won’t be the last to comment on these photos, but goddamn: I’m blown away.

ABC News filed freedom of information act requests to secure release of images taken by a New York City police department helicopter on the morning of 9/11. Capturing the towers before, during and after their collapse, the photographs give a never-before-seen perspective on a pivotal moment in modern history.

It’s absolutely chilling to see the bright red flames in the still-standing tower. It’s just as eerie to see the quiet, perfectly crisp edges of the dust cloud as it envelops lower Manhattan. (See a slideshow here.)

I don’t know if I’ve been so affected by a set of images. More than my breath being taken away the first time I saw the lurid Abu Ghraib prisoner photos or the queasy surreality of Saddam Hussein caught wide-eyed in his bunker, these copter shots of the World Trade Center towers show a moment with which we are all — the whole world — all too familiar.

How often does a defining moment like this go so well documented, then, years later, almost too-real photos — better than the iconic predecessors — are released? It’d almost be like finding a perfect up-close shot of JFK going down. Or another, better image of the marines on Iwo Jima. Or a more horrifying shot of the Vietnamese girl running naked down a dirt road.

Is photography dead? Readily available technology — from cell phones and cheap digital cameras — seems in a strange way to have cheapened the ultra-real brilliance of a still photograph. I, for one, — and maybe just for as long as the chills last — have been drawn back in history, to a time when real life, captured on film, was a cause for wonder, fear, contemplation, and silence.



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    About Me

    Since graduating from Deep Springs College, I've written and edited for magazines (Rolling Stone, The Atlantic Monthly), newspapers (The Village Voice, The National), and websites (NPR.org, SixBillion.org). In the summer of 2007, I packed a bag and walked from New York to New Orleans, a trek that took five months, three pairs of shoes, and a couple thousand miles. These days, I live in Saudi Arabia with my wife, Kelly McEvers, who covers the region for National Public Radio.

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    Contributor Since: August 2009
    Location:Riyadh, Saudi Arabia

    What I'm Up To

    The Review

    I’m a regular contributor to The Review, which Reihan Salam calls a “younger, radder” New York Review of Books.

    Past pieces include:
    -”Down in the floods,” something in Saudi Arabia may have changed
    -”Checkpoint Qatif,”among Saudi’s Shiite minority
    -”Excursion into the desert,” in which my landlord pulls a gun.
    -”You’ll never walk alone,” a night of soccer in sweltering Riyadh.
    -”Get on the bus,” a story of public transport in Riyadh.
    -”Saudi Arabia’s got talent,” from the nation’s first-ever open TV auditions