I’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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