NY WTC: A Living Archive

Afterwords - Afterimages

It took the war to teach it, that you were as responsible for everything you saw as you were for everything you did. The problem was that you didn't always know what you were seeing until later, maybe years later, that a lot of it never made it at all, it just stayed stored there in your eyes.

-- Michael Herr, Dispatches

Binocular Towers
Photo Konstantino Hatzisarros - Psaris Productions, NYC - #35N


In the immediate aftermath of September 11, 2001, I found myself confronted with the question of what to do with an archive whose subject had been destroyed. For over thirty years, the story of the World Trade Center had run parallel with its concrete existence. And for a year and a half prior to the towers’ catastrophic collapse, this archive — growing out of my research for Divided We Stand: A Biography of New York’s World Trade Center — had fed into that wider narrative. Now with the physical structures of the WTC in ruins, I was strongly tempted to stop the clock and preserve the archive in a kind of cybernetic amber, exactly as it had stood at sunrise on that astonishingly clear blue morning.

Yet the significance of the trade towers had not collapsed with them. If anything, the WTC’s sudden and spectacular unbuilding had given the process of assembling its cultural history both a heightened urgency and a deeper meaning. This argued powerfully on behalf of continuing to expand the archive.

I decided therefore to maintain the content posted before the towers fell as a discrete entity, and open up a new "room" within the archive: Afterwords/Afterimages, in order to accommodate text and pictures gathered (though not necessarily created) subsequent to 9/11.

This new architecture is not meant to enshrine the WTC as a sacred relic. Rather it serves to acknowledge in structural terms the psychological threshold posed by the towers’ annihilation. It is intended to reflect the degree to which our awareness has been altered by the singular actuality of the trade center’s destruction.

This then becomes the space in which facts, opinions, associations and speculations will continue to accumulate. Here, in the presence of its absence, we may carry on with the open-ended task of constructing a World Trade Center of the mind.

– Eric Darton, January 2002

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