Sunday, September 11, 2011

Martin Amis

It was the advent of the second plane, sharking in low over the Statue of Liberty: that was the defining moment.  Until then, America thought she was witnessing nothing more serious than the worst aviation disaster in history; now she had a sense of the fantastic vehemence ranged against her.
I have never seen a generically familiar object so transformed by effect. That second plane looked eagerly alive, and galvanised with malice, and wholly alien. For those thousands in the south tower, the second plane meant the end of everything. For us, its glint was the worldflash of a coming future. . . .
If the architect of this destruction was Osama bin Laden, who is a qualified engineer, then he would certainly know something about the stress equations of the World Trade Centre.  He would also know something about the effects of ignited fuel: at 500º C. (a third of the temperature actually attained), steel loses 90% of its strength.  He must have anticipated that one or both of the towers would collapse.  But no visionary cinematic genius could hope to recreate the majestic abjection of that double surrender, with the scale of the buildings conferring its own slow motion.  It was well understood that an edifice so demonstrably comprised of concrete and steel would also become an unforgettable metaphor.  This moment was the apotheosis of the postmodern era -- the era of images and perceptions. . . .
The bringers of Tuesday's terror were morally "barbaric," inexpiably so, but they brought a demented sophistication to their work. . . . Clearly, they have contempt for life. Equally clearly, they have contempt for death.

Their aim was to torture tens of thousands, and to terrify hundreds of millions. In this, they have succeeded.
From "Fear and Loathing," an essay by Amis that appeared in the UK's Guardian newspaper on September 18, 2001.

Martin Amis

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