David Madore's WebLog: The WTC buildings

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The WTC buildings

Strangely enough, the thing which hit me most when the World Trade Center collapsed was not the number of people who died (that's just too abstract, too difficult to picture): it was the destruction of the buildings themselves. I had never seen the twin towers myself (in real, I mean)—or just for a very brief time, and from a distance, when I spent half a day in New York City in the summer of '94. Not that they were such an extraordinary piece of architecture (although my father always claimed that they were very fine specimens of perpendicular gothic, and I guess they were quite a technical achievement), not even that they were so remarkable; but they were, so to speak, part of the landscape (cityscape, that is). And one doesn't expect the landscape to change: every picture of Manhattan (from '77 onward) showed these two towers, so they weren't allowed to change, let alone vanish in a day. The Great Pyramids, Westminster Abbey or the Eiffel Tower aren't “allowed” to disappear: not just because they are important monuments, works of art, or whatever, but also because they are, simply, landmarks that the entire world is familiar with; and such were the twin towers.

Maybe I'm being thoughless, there, to mind the destruction of some bits of steel and stone when so many people have died. Maybe. A cynic would point out that the number dead in the WTC attacks is far less than the number of people who die in the world in a day—September 11, 2001, for example—so why should I care more about the former than about the latter? People aren't worth more when they die in mass or when they die in New York; and it just isn't possible to care about every single dead on Earth. But that's beside the point. It's just that it's so hard to imagine all the people who lost their lives, whereas the buildings are so very concrete. So I admit (qui sine peccato est primus lapidem mittat): I was deeply shocked, I cried, just because of the disappearance of two towers that I had never seen, and I did not cry for the thousands who died in the event.

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