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9/11

The Ministry of False Alarms

In post-9/11 America there has come to be what I think of as the Ministry of False Alarms. The Ministry of False Alarms constantly raises the level of fear inside the United States. I’m not sure what these various rainbow-colored alerts are supposed to do: How does one react when the alert goes from yellow to orange? What does one do to deal with orange danger that one would not do in dealing with yellow danger? How do you relax when the level drops? The only purpose of these alerts is to scare people.

The Sky Is Falling, the Sky Is Falling!

Everyone around the world with access to a television set saw the cataclysmic destruction of the World Trade Center towers, saw it in constant replay, burning—and burning itself into our collective retina. I saw it that way too, but first saw it unmediated. On September 11th my wife, Françoise Mouly, and I had just stepped out of our Lower Manhattan home. Those towers had been our taken-for-granted neighbors, always picture-postcard visible a mile south of our front stoop. That morning, out of the very clear, very blue sky, a plane roared right over our heads and smashed into the first tower.

Report from Ground Zero

My alarm went off, and I lay in bed listening to the weather and news. It was September 11, 2001—an ordinary day, a workday, one of those early fall days that Minnesotans look back at longingly from winter’s chill. I went downstairs, switched on the radio in the kitchen, and sat down to breakfast with the newspaper. Shortly before eight, the newscaster said that a plane had flown into the World Trade Center in New York.

A Kind of Solution


The writer was drinking himself to death. In his first flush of freedom—he had come to Iowa from a land ruled by a military dictatorship—he drowned himself in vodka, and when for the third day running he was rushed to the emergency room with a blood alcohol level that would have killed another man, he was committed for observation. The date was September 10, 2001. That evening, more than eight hours after his last drink, the writer was still dead drunk. The judge who signed his commitment order called the next day, incredulous.

Photographs of Ground Zero

[Kihlstedt 01] Previous: Tridents, World Trade Center, March 2000. [Kihlstedt 02] Missing Kit, Lexington Avenue, September 30, 2001. [Kihlstedt 03] Call Waiting, Lexington Avenue, September 29, 2001. [Kihlstedt 04] Signing On, East 25th Street, Se [...]

Modern Inferno: Post-9/11 Paintings

With the Twin Towers tragedy the American world fell from heaven to hell. The attack created unprecedented ideological, moral, and spiritual chaos, along with physical and mental security issues. Our world became Dante’s Inferno. Morally and spiri [...]

Face-to-Face with Terror: Jessica Stern’s Terror in the Name of God

The American people came face-to-face with the realities of worldwide terrorism following September 11. Although the United States only a few years before had been shocked by our own homegrown terrorists who perpetrated the Oklahoma City bombing, we never realized the extent to which religious militancy has come to replace Communism as the primary threat to our security