When It Was Now
New Mexican photographer exhibits 9/11 images
History has snuck up on me. One moment, it was now: when I first heard the news of the planes crashing. I recall it clearly—as do many of you—and it’s irrelevant that we remember different moments. It seems enough that we remember.
Then it was a little after now, when America battened its hatches, put flag stickers on its minivans, unironically used the descriptor “Homeland” and wrote memos rationalizing torture. Yet the constant thread during that time, however insane or useless it was in application, remained remembrance of 9/11.
I recall being 6 or 7 and not really knowing what the Vietnam War was or when it had happened—and I remember seeing in my grandpa’s face how my ignorance wounded him a little. A veteran of the Air Force, he’d served in WWII, Korea and Vietnam; of course it was unimaginable that Vietnam wasn’t looming large in all American minds.
When I talk to someone too young to remember that now shared so viscerally by the rest of us, it feels shocking, even though it shouldn’t.
Photographer Eric O’Connell was living in Manhattan when 9/11 happened. His personal story is pretty amazing—he’s lucky to be alive—but mostly what’s worth noting is the now that he captured on film in all its awful chaos and chilling stillness. The shared remembrance that so many of us possess, the way we still exchange the where-I-was-when stories, must slowly but inexorably give way to a remembrance grounded in images like these.