The Washington Post Sunday

Pentagon’s tribute: Families, first responders and others reflect.

The U.S. quickly fell back into the Cold War mind-set of good vs. evil, says law professor

- Aziz Rana

When terrorist hijackers caused unspeakabl­e tragedy on Sept. 11, 2001, killing 2,977 people, destroying the twin towers and striking the Pentagon, the day’s horrors, the convention­al wisdom had it, changed everything. Many Americans feared that the country had entered a new stage in which large-scale domestic attacks by foreign terrorists would become commonplac­e. But they also voiced confidence in the capacity of the U.S. government to vanquish foes and eliminate threats. In words that President George W. Bush often repeated, “We will not tire, we will not falter, and we will not fail.”

Twenty years later, the state of affairs is very different. The anniversar­y of 9/11 is inescapabl­y intertwine­d with unfolding events in Afghanista­n, marked by the Taliban’s swift return to power, the chaotic American exit, the deadly Kabul airport attack and concerns for the fate of Afghans who supported the long U.S. war there. While the terrorism threat proved much less severe than initially feared, the United States appears to be reckoning with the limits of its power. Why did things turn out this way? And what accounts for the foreign policy quagmires that ended up defining the “war on terror”?

For all the shared belief that 9/11 had launched a new chapter, the response involved an intense look backward. Politician­s sought to recapture a past definitive­ly gone — especially the mid-20th-century golden age of American global standing — and embraced a caricature­d version of those years that emphasized military adventuris­m, Manichaean usvs.-them thinking and national security excess. The problem, though, was that the world had changed. As a result, 20 years on from 9/11, recalling the devastatio­n of that terrible day invites reflection too on the forever wars, rights abuses and xenophobia that have come to define its legacy.

Twenty years ago, well before I began to call myself a photograph­er, I worked in finance in the World Financial Center. When the planes hit the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001, I was just outside the complex on my way to work. In 2011, as the 10th anniversar­y of the attacks approached, I started to think about what I actually remembered from that time, how memory plays tricks on us and how I could use photograph­y to capture this. This year, for the 20th anniversar­y, I added another layer to the concept. I began by making a list of events, places and sensations that were important to me: Where I was when the planes hit (Rector Street) and when the first tower came down (the Brooklyn Bridge). The bench in Battery Park from which I managed to call my mother to let her know that I was fine, even though cell service was mostly down. The dreaded silence outside St. Vincent’s Hospital in the West Village, where relatives gathered waiting for ambulances to bring in the injured, but almost none arrived. Life continued and these places moved on — in 2010, the hospital shut down, and by 2016, it was a luxury condo building — but for me, they remained forever connected to that infamous day. Guided by my memories, I took photos of the same places in 2011, 2016 and 2021. I varied my camera’s exposure over a series of three frames, showing how despite what we think we remember, our memories fade over time. Until now, I have kept this work personal.

 ?? MISHA FRIEDMAN FOR THE WASHINGTON POST ?? TOP: The One World Trade Center building is reflected on nearby windows in Manhattan on Wednesday.
MISHA FRIEDMAN FOR THE WASHINGTON POST TOP: The One World Trade Center building is reflected on nearby windows in Manhattan on Wednesday.
 ??  ??
 ??  ??
 ??  ?? On my way to work on Sept. 11, 2001, just before 9 a.m., my train’s operator came on the intercom to announce that we’d be skipping the Cortlandt Street (World Trade Center) station and that those passengers wishing to go there should get out at the next stop, Rector Street. I spent the next bit of the ride annoyed that I’d be late by more than 10 minutes, then grudgingly joined other commuters climbing the stairs out of the subway station and heading north toward the World Trade Center. I saw debris in the air, which I presumed was related to some kind of fire somewhere, but I was south of the towers and did not see the hole the first plane had made. So I continued to walk to work, more concerned about being late than anything else. That was the moment when I saw the explosion above my head — as I later found out, it was the second plane hitting the South Tower.
On my way to work on Sept. 11, 2001, just before 9 a.m., my train’s operator came on the intercom to announce that we’d be skipping the Cortlandt Street (World Trade Center) station and that those passengers wishing to go there should get out at the next stop, Rector Street. I spent the next bit of the ride annoyed that I’d be late by more than 10 minutes, then grudgingly joined other commuters climbing the stairs out of the subway station and heading north toward the World Trade Center. I saw debris in the air, which I presumed was related to some kind of fire somewhere, but I was south of the towers and did not see the hole the first plane had made. So I continued to walk to work, more concerned about being late than anything else. That was the moment when I saw the explosion above my head — as I later found out, it was the second plane hitting the South Tower.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from United States