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the view from above
February 10, 2010 2:24 PM   Subscribe

Some of the only known aerial photos, taken by a police helicopter, the only aircraft allowed in the Manhattan airspace during the attacks, of September the 11th have been released.

I hesitated to post this; the photos, while remarkable, are not easy to look at.
posted by Lutoslawski (95 comments total) 10 users marked this as a favorite

 
Well, thanks for ruining my afternoon.
posted by Burhanistan at 2:27 PM on February 10, 2010


It's still hard to believe that ONLY (about) 2800 people died in that.
posted by yhbc at 2:28 PM on February 10, 2010


What a beautiful sunny day that was. Seeing the flames and the dust against the blue of the sky and the green of the parkland and those thousands of windows glinting in the sunshine just seems improper.
posted by turgid dahlia at 2:32 PM on February 10, 2010 [3 favorites]


Fuck. All over again.
posted by Danf at 2:36 PM on February 10, 2010


oh my god.
posted by milestogo at 2:37 PM on February 10, 2010


Astonishing photos, simply astonishing.
posted by WolfDaddy at 2:45 PM on February 10, 2010


The plural of aircraft is aircraft.

That day sucked.
posted by Ironmouth at 2:52 PM on February 10, 2010


More evidence (pity anyone needs it) that this was no controlled implosion. That shit went everywhere.
posted by rocket88 at 2:54 PM on February 10, 2010


"ABC said the NIST gave the network 2,779 pictures on nine CDs, saying some of the photographs had never been released before.

The network posted 12 photos this week on its Web site"

I wonder why FOIA stuff is like this, and ABC is sitting on the other thousands of photos like they have exclusive rights.

.
posted by cashman at 2:54 PM on February 10, 2010 [8 favorites]


It's easy to forget how fierce that fire was, how much dust and smoke came out of those buildings.

I'll never forget my soulless psychopath of a boss, who had the nerve to ask me why I was crying since "I didn't know anybody there," and told me to stop watching TV and get back to work.

I quit three months later.

/still angry
posted by emjaybee at 2:55 PM on February 10, 2010 [13 favorites]


I wonder why FOIA stuff is like this, and ABC is sitting on the other thousands of photos like they have exclusive rights

So they can milk it for another nine years?
posted by turgid dahlia at 2:55 PM on February 10, 2010


leave it to an archivist to explore the aesthetics of the photos and say this:

"The photos are "absolutely core to understanding the visual phenomena of what was happening," said Jan Ramirez, chief curator at the National September 11 Memorial & Museum.

The images of the dust clouds rising as high as some downtown skyscrapers "are some of the most exceptional images in the world, I think, of this event," Ms. Ramirez said."

soon, use them as individual postcards, hawked from small carts downtown Manhattan.
posted by Postroad at 3:01 PM on February 10, 2010 [2 favorites]


The Hermes ad I'm getting in the slideshow seems in poor taste. A tall building, all the windows illuminated in orange.
posted by mpbx at 3:05 PM on February 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


"The photos are "absolutely core to understanding the visual phenomena of what was happening,"

When there are dozens and dozens of videos of people shrieking in horror and running from the ash plumes, the word that comes to mind when hearing someone say something snooty like that is "dildo".
posted by Burhanistan at 3:06 PM on February 10, 2010 [2 favorites]


Too soon.
posted by ardgedee at 3:07 PM on February 10, 2010 [2 favorites]


Not to mention the shots of the sidewalk spattered with leapers before they towers fell (and the videos of the firefighters in the lobby looking up in horror when they realize those loud knocking sounds are bodies hitting the roof).
posted by Burhanistan at 3:08 PM on February 10, 2010


That third photograph is almost beautiful. From that distance it looks sort of like a waterfall in the middle of the city, and then you realize that that's not water, it's concrete and steel, and there are people falling with it, and a chill runs through you.
posted by Target Practice at 3:08 PM on February 10, 2010 [2 favorites]


I wonder why FOIA stuff is like this, and ABC is sitting on the other thousands of photos like they have exclusive rights.


The photos are probably much the same as the examples posted, hundreds of photos taken with a high speed camera as the copter flew around.

How many do you need to see?
posted by Max Power at 3:14 PM on February 10, 2010


Don't think I'll look.
posted by wrapper at 3:17 PM on February 10, 2010


The most heartbreaking image for me is the one of the remaining tower suddenly shrouded in the remains of the one which had just fallen. And the reminder of what a painfully beautiful, crisp fall morning it was.
posted by availablelight at 3:18 PM on February 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


The photos are probably much the same as the examples posted, hundreds of photos taken with a high speed camera as the copter flew around.

How many do you need to see?


I don't need to see any of them. But it seems like they should be in the public domain, available for any citizen to view, since they are the property of the government and a news organization requested them. Perhaps it is as simple as a citizen requesting them, but it seems like these should be in a library, museum or similar format, to be studied. Pearl Harbor, Katrina, et cetera.
posted by cashman at 3:22 PM on February 10, 2010 [3 favorites]


I am deeply angered all over again. How many died that day, how many have died since in the name of 9-11, but Osama bin Laden lives on.
posted by bearwife at 3:24 PM on February 10, 2010 [2 favorites]


I didn't need to see them either, but I looked, and was astounded how movie-like it looked to me. As if the disaster had never really occurred in my own city.

A hundred years from now, when nobody remembers 9/11, these pictures will be invaluable.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 3:35 PM on February 10, 2010


I'll never forget my soulless psychopath of a boss, who had the nerve to ask me why I was crying since "I didn't know anybody there," and told me to stop watching TV and get back to work.

This is so painful to hear. I'm glad you have escaped that poor excuse for a human.

I was away from home at a meeting about cancer screening trials in St. Louis, when my colleague came downstairs late and whispered to me that two planes had flown into the WTC. He looked pale and I whispered back, "It must be an attack." We looked at each other for a second, and I stood up to announce what he had told me and moved that we adjourn the meeting immediately. I called my SO and my daughters right away to reassure them and let them know I would try to get home as soon as possible. My daughters, having never seen the vulnerability of the US before, were deeply distraught and really needed my perspective.

My colleagues and I set about trying to rent cars or hire taxis to take us home. Every car was already rented and every taxi hired. My colleagues from the Marshfield Clinic managed to find a 17-passenger van for rent and asked us if we would like to share. Several folks from Henry Ford in Detroit joined in as well as a colleague from Niagra on the Lake. We set out cross country toward Minnesota, dropping the Canadian and Henry Ford folks in Utica, IL to be picked up by folks driving down from Detroit. I arrived home late that night, with a surreal buzz in my head and an aching for what was beginning to be clearly a devastating loss of life and national confidence, but glad to have the comfort of my beloved. My children were far from me, one in Portland, OR, the other in Raleigh, NC, and I yearned to be able to hold them like I did when they were children. To this day, I cannot imagine the distress of those who lived in NYC and lost loved ones in that attack.

I have enormous respect for the National Cancer Institute project officer who agreed to release us all to call our loved ones and seek a way home to them.
posted by Mental Wimp at 3:36 PM on February 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


I was on a rooftop several blocks away, as this happened. One of the (many) things that stand out in my memory of that day was the helicopter pilots repeated attempts to rescue people on the TC rooftop, as the pre-collapse inferno raged. It was clearly too hot to get close. Then they had to watch as things went from bad to worse.
posted by R. Mutt at 3:42 PM on February 10, 2010


Too soon.

Not soon enough, if only to impeach Bush while he was still in office. He got to walk away. The victims of his utter ineptitude didn't get that chance.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 3:50 PM on February 10, 2010 [8 favorites]


Jesus. Those are disconcertingly beautiful. Hard to look at.
posted by brundlefly at 3:52 PM on February 10, 2010


For a second it felt like it was happening all over again, owing to the new perspective.

What a punch in the gut.
posted by bwg at 4:07 PM on February 10, 2010


Very powerful photos, but a big fuck you to the WSJ for running a really obnoxious flash ad next to them. What with clothing crashing into a building with orange windows and all. I mean, seriously, someone needs to get slapped here.
posted by seanmpuckett at 4:07 PM on February 10, 2010


Those are the only pics I've seen that... capture the scale of what it felt like to be walking down Broadway and looking at this ... colossal wall of smoke, dust and death. Too see that it really was that big... and didn't just feel that big... I dunno... What a confusing and sad day.
posted by nutate at 4:13 PM on February 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


Jesus Christ, those absolutely bring the scale home in a way that none of the other photos and footage I've ever seen has done. I was in no way expecting them to be so affecting. Wow.
posted by Justinian at 4:26 PM on February 10, 2010


Those are really tough to look at.
posted by eyeballkid at 4:34 PM on February 10, 2010


I didn't even notice the Hermes ad when I first saw this.
posted by delmoi at 4:43 PM on February 10, 2010 [1 favorite]



More evidence (pity anyone needs it) that this was no controlled implosion. That shit went everywhere.
posted by rocket88 at 2:54 PM on February 10 [+] [!]


Um, I guess you can pity me, because I haven't heard a good detailed refutation of those theories. For example, why did the WT7 have to come down? Also, all that stuff about the heat of the fire vs. structural integrity along with the fact the towers were specifically built to withstand the impact of a plane hitting them.

These photos don't seem to provide the evidence you claim - as far as I see it. There does seem to be a well defined cloud that of course spreads out everywhere eventually.


I am honestly curious, but sympathetic that some may be impatient with me if this is something so obvious, and I'm just out of the loop.
posted by smartypantz at 4:47 PM on February 10, 2010


But it seems like they should be in the public domain, available for any citizen to view, since they are the property of the government and a news organization requested them.

They are in the public domain, and if it's really that important to you, there's nothing to stop you from taking this on as a project.
posted by dhammond at 4:53 PM on February 10, 2010


The two most chilling stories I've ever heard about how people found out about the attacks involved Americans traveling separately in Italy. One was in a taxi in Rome, cars zooming all around him, when suddenly they all slowed and stopped. People jumped out of the cars, knelt on the ground, crossed themselves and started to pray.

The other was also in Rome, when recognized as an American, he was pulled into a store by a shopkeeper who spoke little English but pulled out a touristy photo of the towers and said, "They are no more."
posted by etaoin at 5:08 PM on February 10, 2010 [15 favorites]


Amazing photos ... it's really hard to take in the scale of it all.

I wonder why FOIA stuff is like this, and ABC is sitting on the other thousands of photos like they have exclusive rights

I think you misunderstand how FOIA works. Pure coincidence - I was working on a FOIA request all morning. ABC paid for copies of the photos; they gained access to them through FOIA. Anyone else can do the same. ABC doesn't have exclusive rights to the photos themselves, but they are free to do whatever they like with the copies they purchased.
posted by kanewai at 5:09 PM on February 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


specifically built to withstand the impact of a plane hitting them.

sigh. Specifically built to withstand the impact of a 707. The planes that hit were 767s. Guess which is significantly heavier and has more fuel upon takeoff? Even so, the towers did withstand the plane's impact. They did not collapse from the planes hitting them, they collapsed after the steel core's melted from the heat of the giant fucking inferno that engulfed the area because of the explosions of massive amounts of aviation fuel.

why did the WT7 have to come down

WTC7 also fell because of fire damage. The reason there was so much fire damage? The sprinkler system was a piece of shit obviously designed by an idiot and so completely failed to do it's actual job, which was to, you know, sprinkle. Normally the building would still be saved because the firefighters would come in and put out the fire anyway.

You know why the firefighters didn't put on the fire?

Because they were all fucking dead.

So STFU.
posted by Justinian at 5:10 PM on February 10, 2010 [32 favorites]


Also: "steel cores". So, STFU me.
posted by Justinian at 5:20 PM on February 10, 2010


Justinian: "They did not collapse from the planes hitting them, they collapsed after the steel core's melted from the heat of the giant fucking inferno that engulfed the area because of the explosions of massive amounts of aviation fuel."

And before anyone pulls out any bullshit about the melting point of steel, nothing has to melt for a structure to collapse. It just has to be weakened.
posted by brundlefly at 5:27 PM on February 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


Blazecock Pileon: "Not soon enough, if only to impeach Bush while he was still in office. He got to walk away. The victims of his utter ineptitude didn't get that chance."

As someone asked: If a terror attack killing thousands occurred on Obama's watch, you think the Republicans would be singing "God Bless America" with Democrats on the Capitol steps?
posted by Joe Beese at 5:32 PM on February 10, 2010


So STFU.
posted by Justinian at 5:10 PM on February 10 [5 favorites +] [!]


Was this necessary? I was asking an honest question.
Thank you for answering it.
posted by smartypantz at 5:50 PM on February 10, 2010 [2 favorites]


ABC paid for copies of the photos; they gained access to them through FOIA.

Thanks. I wonder how much they paid. Like an actual fee, or something nominal for processing.
posted by cashman at 6:06 PM on February 10, 2010


Its interesting to see these. Those aerial shots look pretty much like I imagined it might. I was in the path of that huge cloud of dust and debris and shot my one roll of film very early on in the attack. There's no getting the images of that day out of my mind, ever.
posted by blaneyphoto at 6:12 PM on February 10, 2010


From the NIST

"What are the fees for filing a FOIA request?
FOIA allows agencies to charge requesters for FOIA services, e.g., search and review time, copy costs, and special services like document certification and Federal Express fees.

If you are concerned about costs, ask for a cost estimate in your letter. FOIA staff will let you know roughly what your fees will be before they process your request, and they will give you a chance to approve these fees. "

"How do I make a FOIA request?
Submit your request in writing to the NIST FOIA Office at the following address or via e-mail to foia@nist.gov."
posted by cashman at 6:13 PM on February 10, 2010


I'll never forget my soulless psychopath of a boss, who had the nerve to ask me why I was crying since "I didn't know anybody there," and told me to stop watching TV and get back to work.

A contrasting story - I was in Uzbekistan training to be a Peace Corps volunteer when the attacks occurred. Over the next few days, when the phones worked, I went round & round in discussion with my family as to why I didn't feel immediate compulsion to return. I had to explain to them, contrary to whatever was being communicated over the airwaves, that I felt safe & that the locals were entirely sympathetic with respect to the event. A few days following the attacks, a mayor of a nearby town addressed a group of us & said that the attack wasn't on America alone, but on every country who had representatives staffed in those towers. It was a human tragedy not curtailed to national boundaries. Over the following week, complete strangers, knowing I spoke little Uzbek & speaking just as little English, would approach us in the streets offering gestural condolences. It didn't matter whether we knew anyone who suffered directly or in a six degrees fashion - they understood it struck at the psyche in a way any compassionate person would realize.

Unlike your boss, who I would like to travel back in time & kick in the pants.
posted by Hesychia at 6:27 PM on February 10, 2010 [2 favorites]


Still fresh after all this time. It still makes me weep.
posted by arcticseal at 6:31 PM on February 10, 2010


smartypantz the thing about the questions you're asking is that they're nearly always asked in bad faith by people with an agenda. They've been answered (over and over again) in threads like this all over the internet so it's hard for those of us who take a deeper interest in these conspiracy theories to believe that there's anyone who hasn't seen the debate hashed and rehashed.

Not to imply that you weren't asking in good faith in any way or to condone Justinian's vehemence, just providing context.
posted by Skorgu at 6:32 PM on February 10, 2010 [5 favorites]


I've seen so many 9/11 pics and video over the years that I was pretty nonchalant starting the slideshow. I figured I'd take a quick look at the photos and move onto some other FPPs. I was not expecting to have this stir up as much as it did tonight. I was expecting to see the pictures from my analytical side, not the emotional one.
posted by Slack-a-gogo at 6:38 PM on February 10, 2010


Great photos...sad, horrible event. I really wish we could put it behind us.

When this happened I was amazed at how my friends and neighbors responded to it. Some got tattoos, some started flying flags and all I could think was how naive these folks were. Ten years too late, but Welcome to the World. This shit happens sometimes.

While going through various airports in Europe in the '80s there were Wanted posters for terrorists everywhere. This stuff isn't new. The entire nation didn't perseverate over the bombing of a Marine Corps barracks in '83 for ten years. There was no big freak out when General Dozier was kidnapped. Etc. Etc.

Please forgive my rant, but America's initiation to terrorism and its very sad and self pitying response to it, as if we're too good for that, is degrading, demoralizing and is ruining the U.S.

I've spent much of my life abroad, in places where terrorism is common political practice. So it's been very sad to see an entire nation become so emotionally crippled and derailed by a single event.

(Conversely, Terrorism is just the new Cold War.)

I get it now.
posted by snsranch at 6:56 PM on February 10, 2010 [11 favorites]


TIME magazine put out a special issue for subscribers after 9/11 and one of the photos shows uh, specks in the sky, which were jumpers. that's the image that defines the tragedy for me.
posted by Artful Codger at 6:59 PM on February 10, 2010


Was this necessary?

Probably not, but it sure made me feel better. So maybe!
posted by Justinian at 7:01 PM on February 10, 2010 [2 favorites]


This picture was perhaps the most stunning one I remember from 9/11, although it wasn't released in the US, unsurprisingly.

Tragic?
Grotesque?
Surreal?
Free?

(Perhaps we should turn this picture on its side.)

We are all victims of our context, but the world is still beautiful. It's a matter of perspective.
posted by markkraft at 7:10 PM on February 10, 2010 [2 favorites]


I condone Justinian's vehemence.
posted by mattholomew at 7:18 PM on February 10, 2010


I can't look at this. Yet. But I bookmarked it. Thank you for sharing.
posted by Salamandrous at 8:04 PM on February 10, 2010


They've been answered (over and over again) in threads like this all over the internet so it's hard for those of us who take a deeper interest in these conspiracy theories to believe that there's anyone who hasn't seen the debate hashed and rehashed.

Thankyou for answering me. Although it may seem like everyone should know these things, I honestly haven't seen these debates in a context where people weren't screaming "idiot" at each other. While all of YOU may have rehashed these a million times, it isn't the case where all reasonable people automatically have this knowledge.

And yes I consider myself reasonable and no, I do not have an agenda other than honest questions asked in good faith.

Can someone direct me to an authoritative source where I can see all the conspiracies regarding this debunked?
posted by smartypantz at 8:15 PM on February 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


wow, i foolishly looked. i really thought this couldn't hit me in the gut anymore
i watched people walk home covered in dust. i had fallen asleep on a bench by the borders in the towers the friday before. the morning of 9/11 i'd been scheduled to appear in state court a few blocks away from the towers. i represented the sister of a firefighter who had seen the towers come down on his co-workers.
there's something in the moment of finding out about something that involves completely unexpected death nearby on a grand scale. i don't know how to get at that moment in words. i guess these photos do.
posted by angrycat at 8:17 PM on February 10, 2010


smartypantz, maybe drop it. this isn't the thread for this. and you know how to google. sorry for being harsh.
posted by angrycat at 8:18 PM on February 10, 2010


I apologize, but will point out I was only responding to other comments in this thread and was not trying to be a jerk.

Sorry for everyone's loss.
posted by smartypantz at 8:25 PM on February 10, 2010


smartypantz - Please derail a different thread. It's apparent that you're either asking questions in bad faith or you don't know about Google.
posted by ged at 8:38 PM on February 10, 2010


The weather that day was that kind of weather that you live in NYC for, where simply being outside makes you gloriously happy. The bright orange flames and puffy black smoke were sort of beautiful which made it impossible to understand at first until he second plane hit and it was clear that you might die if you didn't run.

What no one talks about is having to go back to work downtown, what, like a little over a week later they let people in, and when you got out of the subway on Wall St the smell was strong and constant, everywhere you went. Smoke and burned plastic and what you couldn't help but think was burned flesh, sort of a fatty burned meat smell.

It's a little easier to explain when you look at these pictures of how far the smoke and dust spread, and why people looking from the west thought that everyone in downtown had been buried in rubble.
posted by gregography at 8:43 PM on February 10, 2010 [2 favorites]


I was living in DC (and working for the Department of Defense) on the day of the attacks, and I remember just how lovely the day (weather-wise) was, in stark contrast to the horror of what had just taken place not far from me (I was in Falls Church) as well as in New York. For some reason, that contrast will always stay with me.

But that's not why I wanted to post. What has me baffled is just how alien the thought processes of the hijackers must have been. To want to take their own lives, as well as those on the planes with them and in the buildings they had targeted just seems completely incomprehensible.

This is not to say I am confused by people doing terrible things to each other. I can more-or-less understand the logic, twisted as it may be, of the violent criminal. Or the rationale of the soldier on the battlefield. But the mindset of the jihadi still mystifies me, though I have to imagine by this point there must be reams of literature on the subject. The question is, though, is there any literature out there, accessible to the somewhat educated layman, that could help explain the psychological factors and indoctrination that shaped the minds of the attackers? Because as it stands, I still cannot fathom the minds behind acts such as the September 11th hijackings.
posted by Imhotep is Invisible at 8:45 PM on February 10, 2010


>>
The other was also in Rome, when recognized as an American, he was pulled into a store by a shopkeeper who spoke little English but pulled out a touristy photo of the towers and said, "They are no more."

The photos set me up. This knocked me down, goddammit.

.
posted by genehack at 9:05 PM on February 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


How many died that day, how many have died since in the name of 9-11, but Osama bin Laden lives on.

Yeah, but we got Saddam Hussein!
posted by neuron at 9:41 PM on February 10, 2010


While going through various airports in Europe in the '80s there were Wanted posters for terrorists everywhere. This stuff isn't new. The entire nation didn't perseverate over the bombing of a Marine Corps barracks in '83 for ten years. There was no big freak out when General Dozier was kidnapped. Etc. Etc.

Keep in mind, though, that the scale of the attack was something no one had ever seen before. The death toll from 9/11 -- which took roughly two hours start to finish -- was roughly 3000. The death toll of the Irish Troubles -- over four decades -- was roughly 3500. As many people died in the Pentagon as died in every Provisional bombing in England combined (125).

The Red Brigades are thought to have killed 75 during their decade of terror. 87 people died onboard American 11, which crashed into the North Tower.

The Berlin discotheque bombing killed 6. The US bombing of Libya that followed killed 45. 59 died onboard American 77, which crashed into the Pentagon.

And I do remember there was a profound sadness in my town when the Beirut barracks bombing happened. The news came on a Sunday morning, and church was very somber that day. Grenada followed shortly thereafter. 305 dead in the barracks, 1/10th the size of 9/11.

Please forgive my rant, but America's initiation to terrorism and its very sad and self pitying response to it, as if we're too good for that, is degrading, demoralizing and is ruining the U.S.

But it wasn't our initiation into terrorism. Oklahoma City. Lockerbie. Beirut. 9/11 was much, much bigger. And contrary to Glenn Beck's bloviation, most of us were scared shitless on 9/12.

Do I think we overreacted and lived in too much fear? Absolutely. The odds of a terror attack happening in this country like that are exceedingly low. And most all of us have moved on from that day now, save those in the security wing of the GOP who bring up The Fear whenever they can. But it doesn't mean we can't look at the visceral images of the towers collapsing and not feel raw.

I think we suffer from a sense of 9/11 being too big. It's like how we hate bands that get popular; they must be denigrated. Your Favorite Terror Attack Sucks. But this really was just that much bigger, that much more audacious, than anything we've seen before or after. You have to recognize the scale and deal with it. Almost ten Beirut barracks. Almost fifteen Pan Am 103s. Nearly eighteen Murrah Buildings. The reaction to this was wrong -- the insular feeling and the dark seed of revenge that blossomed into rendition, torture, and the folly of Iraq. but the feelings -- of loss, sadness, and yes, fear -- were and are real.
posted by dw at 9:50 PM on February 10, 2010 [14 favorites]


(Oh, and I know it's completely inappropriate, but while I was searching for the picture in question, I found this and this, and felt compelled to share these WTC WTFs. Bastardly eeevil... but is it ever "too soon" for teh cute?!)
posted by markkraft at 10:50 PM on February 10, 2010


I'm sure we're going to see a few tens of thousands die from lung cancers caused by the dust. Lots of asbestos, lots of powder and dust.
posted by five fresh fish at 11:30 PM on February 10, 2010


The size of the event is unmanageable, even now.

I remember seeing all the helicopters flying around and have frequently wondered, in the time since, whatever happened to all that footage they must have taken? I always thought I wanted to see it - that maybe it would explain? what had happened? Illuminate it in some way that would help make it somehow fathomable? Each time I see some new perspective on it I still can't wrap my brain around it.
posted by From Bklyn at 11:43 PM on February 10, 2010


Keep in mind, though, that the scale of the attack was something no one had ever seen before

Look, I don't want to diminish the individual tragedies of people who died in 9/11 because in my book a single terrorist death is one too many, but lots of people had seen death on that scale and at that speed before that day. 9/11 was unique because it played out in real time on TV.

When you're talking about deaths in the scale of thousands in a single place, in a fairly horrifying way, there are plenty of examples - some recent - prior to 9/11. Not least the scale of carnage in Rwanda and the behavior of those doing the killing.

The lesson from 9/11 was, to some degree that there is no specific lesson: at a global level 9/11 is part of an ongoing pattern of senseless mass deaths. In an industrialised, mechanized world in which guns, knives, explosives and access to transport are easy to come by, mass killing is remarkably easy, both for terrorists and governments looking to project power.

It's a fairly moot point to the families of the dead if their loved one is killed by a wackjob Islamic playboy or a missile sent by people they have no issue with and have never met. That hardline elements in the US and elsewhere failed to grasp that 3,000 dead civilians somewhere foreign is no less tragic than 3,000 dead civilian Americans or British is a shame on them.
posted by MuffinMan at 1:18 AM on February 11, 2010 [5 favorites]


I remember thinking at the time that the pilots flying those helicopters must have gone through amazing turmoil whilst seeing something as huge and shocking as this play out right underneath them whilst keeping the thing in the air at the same time.
posted by vbfg at 2:01 AM on February 11, 2010


While going through various airports in Europe in the '80s there were Wanted posters for terrorists everywhere. This stuff isn't new. The entire nation didn't perseverate over the bombing of a Marine Corps barracks in '83 for ten years. There was no big freak out when General Dozier was kidnapped. Etc. Etc.

3000 People Like Us (with the possible exception of those military officers at the Pentagon, who may be described as dying in the line of duty) climbed onto domestic flights, or put on their suits, drank coffee, headed off to a breakfast conference or started middle managering for the day-- and were dead by 11am in a scene out of a Jerry Bruckheimer film. The impenetrable fortress of the continental US was breached, and there was no sense of whether the attacks would continue through the day. The two most prominent (though maybe not most beloved) buildings anchoring the island in every single view of Manhattan since the 70s were obliterated in a morning, altering the skyline forever. (There are still commuters who look away. Looking at the tip end of Manhattan still feels to me like pressing on a bruise.) You really don't see the difference in emotional scale?

My mother mentioned she talked to a woman who remembered Pearl Harbor (literally) and she said the differences were 1) These weren't soliders and 2) No one saw it play out all day in their living rooms, calculating how closely they lived to an airport.
posted by availablelight at 4:30 AM on February 11, 2010 [2 favorites]


The lesson from 9/11 was, to some degree that there is no specific lesson.

I just want to make sure you read that line. The only way to stop terrorism, is to ignore terrorism.
posted by dearsina at 4:45 AM on February 11, 2010 [3 favorites]


9/11 was unique because it played out in real time on TV.
QFT, this made us all witnesses.
posted by dabitch at 4:59 AM on February 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


3,000 dead civilian Americans or British

The 2,976 victims included 329 foreign nationals from over 90 countries.
posted by kirkaracha at 6:03 AM on February 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


The only way to stop terrorism, is to ignore terrorism.

Er, I'm all for not overreacting to these things as many Americans tend to do, but I don't think refusing to take any notice of these events is a good strategy either, nor is it realistic.
posted by the other side at 6:05 AM on February 11, 2010


.
posted by Halloween Jack at 7:08 AM on February 11, 2010


What has me baffled is just how alien the thought processes of the hijackers must have been. To want to take their own lives, as well as those on the planes with them and in the buildings they had targeted just seems completely incomprehensible.

This statement underscores just how naive you and I were as to what alot of the rest of the world has suffered, too often in direct or indirect support of our luxurious, coddled existence.

My point is only that it's certainly shocking, but not completely incomprehensible, if one understands what things look like from their side of the ocean.

To keep things simple, I try to assess things using a simple metric - lives. The worst thing you can do to most people is to kill their loved ones. The second-worst is to kill the person.

Killing 3000 - very bad indeed. Killing 150,000+ in a war of reprisal - worse. So, we haven't exactly learned much yet from 9/11, but it got our attention, anyway.
posted by Artful Codger at 7:35 AM on February 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


I'll never forget my soulless psychopath of a boss, who had the nerve to ask me why I was crying since "I didn't know anybody there," and told me to stop watching TV and get back to work.

Seven days later a friend of mine said "Oh come on. The Word Trade Center was so last week." I was offended at the time, but in retrospect it was one of the funniest statements ever made.
posted by clarknova at 8:25 AM on February 11, 2010


I was thinking about this last night after reading snsranch's "terrorism isn't new" comment. Yeah, terrorism isn't new and worse things have happened than 9/11, but as dw pointed out, the scale was extraordinary for a terrorist attack. But, in addition to the scale, it's also set apart by how public it was. Aside from airing live on TV, there were thousands of photos and tons of video, so everyone "witnessed" it, more than any other tragedy I can think of.

And then there is the drama of seeing such enormous, well-known buildings fall. And the symbolism of destroying part of the Pentagon. I mean, would people still poo-poo 9/11 if the planes had destroyed the Eiffel Tower, the Tower of London, and Notre Dame on live TV (to completely randomly pick some famous Euro landmarks)? Obviously, the Bush administration and many Americans reacted badly--politically--but I don't think it's fair or accurate to say that Americans' emotional reactions--of horror and shock and grief--were unwarranted.
posted by Mavri at 9:37 AM on February 11, 2010


Can't, quite, look at these, but this:

soon, use them as individual postcards, hawked from small carts downtown Manhattan.

Made me think of this:

HIGH WOOD
by Philip Johnston (1918)

Ladies and gentlemen, this is High Wood,
Called by the French, Bois des Furneaux,
The famous spot which in Nineteen-Sixteen,
July, August and September was the scene
Of long and bitterly contested strife,
By reason of its High commanding site.
Observe the effect of shell-fire in the trees
Standing and fallen; here is wire; this trench
For months inhabited, twelve times changed hands;
(They soon fall in), used later as a grave.
It has been said on good authority
That in the fighting for this patch of wood
Were killed somewhere above eight thousand men,
Of whom the greater part were buried here,
This mound on which you stand being.... Madame, please,
You are requested kindly not to touch
Or take away the Company's property
As souvenirs; you'll find we have on sale
A large variety, all guaranteed.
As I was saying, all is as it was,
This is an unknown British officer,
The tunic having lately rotted off.
Please follow me - this way ..... the path, sir, please,
The ground which was secured at great expense
The Company keeps absolutely untouched,
And in that dug-out (genuine) we provide
Refreshments at a reasonable rate.
You are requested not to leave about
Paper, or ginger-beer bottles, or orange peel,
There are waste-paper baskets at the gate.
posted by kalimac at 11:07 AM on February 11, 2010


I worked about three blocks away from the towers and stood under them on Church street when the second plane hit.

When we went back to work down there, and the inevitable assholes with their folded tables appeared selling pictures and videos of The Tragedy to idiot tourists, I wanted to start swinging a baseball bat indiscriminately. Instead, I started taking a different train.

Apparently it still pisses me off to this day.
posted by papercake at 11:15 AM on February 11, 2010


I mean, would people still poo-poo 9/11 if the planes had destroyed the Eiffel Tower, the Tower of London, and Notre Dame on live TV (to completely randomly pick some famous Euro landmarks)?

Most European cities were shelled, burned, or bombed in living memory, and London, for instance, has had bomb attacks and bomb threats for decades. Americans hadn't seen anything like the destruction of 9/11 since the Civil War in the early- to mid-1860s.
posted by kirkaracha at 11:42 AM on February 11, 2010


Americans hadn't seen anything like the destruction...

In a single day, I don't know that anyone has ever - so unexpectedly - seen such destruction.

Look, yes, Europe has had lots and lots of terrorist bombing of train stations and hijaking of airplanes and etc., and not to play any of those events down in the toll of life and emotional health of those caught in the cross-fire. But on Sep. 11 they destroyed the better part of, what, ten square blocks of the financial district of Manhattan and plowed a plane into the Pentagon.

It was a lot for any country.
posted by From Bklyn at 11:57 AM on February 11, 2010


From Bklyn - methinks thou hast forgot the Blitz.

(Not to say it wasn't a lot, I've just been getting over the whole American exceptionalism thing...)
posted by fingers_of_fire at 4:25 PM on February 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


As a non-New Yorker, I am a little choked up looking at these photos too. Just last week I was dragging my suitcase through the "under construction" hoardings of the World Financial Centre, those huge glass buildings with the pyramid and the dome on top next to WTC site, amazed as I always am by the scale of New York. I was reflecting on those buildings last week, still startled by the absence of the WTC towers, buildings which I never saw live.

And then these photos, that make that whole colossal site look like a kid's sandbox.

Thanks for the post. These are really profound images.
posted by salishsea at 8:29 PM on February 11, 2010


In a single day, I don't know that anyone has ever - so unexpectedly - seen such destruction.

Dresden? Haiti? Nagasaki? I mean, come on. At least try.
posted by five fresh fish at 9:45 PM on February 11, 2010 [2 favorites]


Non-New Yorker and with something of a reputation for anti-American (Government)ism:
9/11 was unique because it played out in real time on TV.
QFT, this made us all witnesses.


Exactly. 9/11 was a day of slow-motion horro and sent me into a helluva depression. I still get queasy seeing the NY skyline in television and movies.

What do you call a shock to the system that doesn't happen all at once, but is stretched out over hours? Torture? 9/11 was torture of empathy and sanity and humanity and innocence. An act of unthinkable savagery set fire to and collapsed an outstanding demonstration of man's engineering abilities: of our capability to be more than animals, to conceive and create and construct.

9/11 cut deep into people's psyche all around the world, because it destroyed our image of what we can be.
posted by five fresh fish at 9:55 PM on February 11, 2010


Yes, Dresden, Nagasaki, Hiroshima, Kyoto, the Blitz - all instances of extraordinary destruction taking place in a single (more-or-less) day.

I meant my comment not as an expression of American Exceptionalism (that's a nice re-use of a differently-intended phrase) but only to say it was a terrific amount of violence unleashed in a single day unexpectedly. All those other events (natural catastrophe, Haiti, the Tsunami in Dec. '06, the destruction of New Orleans notwithstanding) were the result of ongoing wars; America might have been 'at war' but until Sep. 11th, I'm not sure how much it registered in the collective American psyche, and thus came as a complete surprise.

posted by From Bklyn at 12:39 AM on February 12, 2010


Maybe it depends on what you mean by "unexpected." I'm pretty sure folk in Nagasaki were not expecting to be vapourized that day.
posted by five fresh fish at 10:14 AM on February 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


Haiti...[was] the result of ongoing wars????
posted by Mental Wimp at 10:16 AM on February 12, 2010


Oh, now I see. Nevermind, my bad.
posted by Mental Wimp at 10:17 AM on February 12, 2010


We have always been at war with plate tectonics.
posted by Burhanistan at 10:18 AM on February 12, 2010


Exactly. 9/11 was a day of slow-motion horro and sent me into a helluva depression.

I actually slept through most of it. I was sick as a dog (flu-like stuff, possibly actual flu although it was REAL early in the season) and crawled out of bed around 10:00am pacific. So I manage to make it to the computer and, as usual, I boot up Mozilla to check on stuff. As I recall, the first thing I brought up was thestreet.com. I have no idea why. I'm kind of in a daze as is, and the first thing I see is GIANT SCREAMING LETTERS all over the page, reading:
WORLD TRADE CENTER DESTROYED IN TERRORIST AIRSTRIKE
So I sit there blinking stupidly at it for a while hitting RELOAD wondering what the fuck is going on and why is this shit here instead of the market numbers. Terrorist airstrike? Where the fuck would terrorists get tactical bombers? Am I having a fever hallucination? What the fuck?

I think it took a minute or two before I got it together enough to turn on the TV and see what was going on.

I suspect that first moment when, already dazed, feverish, confused, and half out of it at best, I brought up a website expecting DOW +89 or DOW -24 or whatever and instead got WORLD TRADE CENTER DESTROYED IN TERRORIST AIRSTRIKE filling up my entire browser window will remain for my entire lifetime the most surreal moment I have ever experienced.
posted by Justinian at 1:06 PM on February 12, 2010


Holy shit. I wish I had something more intelligent to say, but jeez. Holy shit.
posted by puddinghead at 2:44 PM on February 12, 2010


Manny Badillo (of NYCCAN) discusses the new photos on Russia Today.
posted by thescientificmethhead at 8:06 AM on February 13, 2010


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