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A Powerful Image of the 9/11 Attacks and Its Aftermath, Essay Example

Pages: 4

Words: 1035

Essay

Contemporary culture and society is fraught with powerful visual images that are integral to the way that modern life is communicated and represented. Such images undergird the construction of imagination in addition to cultural identities within an increasingly pluralistic world. Indeed, visual communication is far more pervasive ton contemporary times due to the fact that visual images retain the capacity to captivate and influence viewers in a celeritous manner emotionally, viscerally, and cognitively. A handful of images that Americans are inundated with on a quotidian basis are ideological in nature, especially in the aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, as the dissemination of anti-Muslim rhetoric and anti-Muslim images that the horrifying terrorist events triggered. Subsequent images connected to the so-called War on Terror have seemingly been disseminated at the micro and macro levels for propagandistic means as a weapon in galvanizing sympathy and support vis-à-vis the germination of anger and hatred towards the enemy. The image of the falling man from one of the two towers that burned to the group is a poignant example within the clash of images that continue to take place in public discourses into the present day. Indeed, the Falling Man attests to the reality that within the current visual culture in the United States, images function as potent mechanisms of persuasion when the public engages with them.

As mentioned previously, the Falling Man image remains one of the most controversial images that garnered attention after it was disseminated on page seven of the New York Times shortly after the heinous terrorist attacks. Upon seeing the image, it appears somewhat “disturbing” and perhaps even “voyeuristic” due to the fact it was published just days after over three thousand innocent Americans were killed. These first few days were filled with images of triumph and heroism in the midst of utter tragedy, and day after day such images were emblazoned on the front pages of magazines and newspapers while the media was saturated with similar images and inundated the homes of people across the globe. Useless efforts to discover who the man in the image has not yet yielded positive results despite the efforts of several journalists interested in his identity.

Drew’s invigorating image showed an unidentified 9/11 victim who jumped thirteen hundred feet to his inevitable demise. The image captures him frozen in the air in impeccable geometric balance with architectural linear perfection. The unidentified figure holds its arms near his own body, and one of his legs is bent in a way that seems he wanted to reach the ground quicker. The image also captured his posture in that moment, which appears as if he has accepted his fate and is willing himself to accept the fact that he is going to soon die, but he will die on his own terms. Unlike most of the 9/11 images that showed the horrors and destruction, this image is devoid of any signs of destruction as there are just clear lines there, which makes the image even more haunting. The vantage point, combined with the image printed in black and white, amplify the viewer feeling haunted by such visceral material. Hurdling to his death, this man, who is not perturbed and is all alone, separates himself the tragedy taking place. The elements in this image render the image rife with ambiguities, which creates competing discourses and narratives from which meaning can be gleaned.

The main discourse evident is one of a sense of innocence within the image. This sense of innocence portrayed is significant within the framework that the American government tried to use in the grand narrative through the media regarding the 9/11 attacks. President Bush had responded to the 9/11 attacks with a brutal and violent War on Terror in order to revitalized America has a country that was not impotent and weak. As such, visual imagery of innocence retained a rhetorical function in that such images persuaded Americans that they were the innocent victims of senseless violence, which is why the violent War on Terror was a justified response to the attacks. Furthermore, American readers, upon seeing such images, are drawn to such images of exploited innocence and cultivates sympathy in them. This image can be argued that it shows a sense of innocence because the man in the image, along with two hundred others, were forced to jump because of the encroaching fire that was about to engulf them. As such, within this particular narrative, all of the Americans who perished from falling to their death out of the Towers were considered homicides instead of suicides.

Richard Drew’s photograph of “The Falling Man” indeed became iconic and soon became representative not only of the over two hundred Americans who jumped to the their death that day but also of all of the innocent victims slaughtered during these senseless acts of terror on American soil. Regardless of the identity of the Falling Man, this visual image forces all Americans to confront the grim realities in it and acknowledge and laud the bravery of all of doomed souls—like the Falling Man—who were trapped in the Towers and had no other choice but to jump to their and experienced the horror and vagaries of September 11 in its abounding form. These people—no matter how exploitative images of them may seem that confront the realities of what took place on that fateful day—must never be forgotten and should never be elided from the record. This poignant image belongs in the time capsule because it typifies the current time period in which terrorism reigned supreme, and such images cut to the core of the human condition and human experiences that defined the beginning of the twenty-first century. Only triumph can come out of tragedy, and this image testifies to the bravery of Americans in the face of terror and brutality and how resilient Americans are and have always been in the face of tragedy.

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