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ground zero

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.

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 [...]

Henry Adams At Ground Zero

Granted, Adams's persona was firmly wrapped in the mantle of failure—so much so that savvy readers soon suspected that he was protesting just a bit too much about his ignorance and ineptitude. Still, when he writes that "Nothing in education is so astonishing as the amount of ignorance it accumulates in the form of inert facts," we can, I think, take Adams at his word. "Inert facts," the material that one dutifully memorizes and then reproduces on exams, were essentially useless because they could not be actively applied to rapidly changing situations. Such "facts" simply sat there, rather like cornflakes in a bowl of milk, and became increasingly soggy. Here it is worth mentioning that Adams's proposed sub-title for the Education was "A Study of Twentieth-Century Multiplicity." If the Virgin hearkened us back to a simpler age, one that organized and thus unified itself around the force of religion, science often seemed to dump the human component altogether, preferring the disinterestedness that is an essential component of the scientific method.