In his New York Times column yesterday (TimesSelect subscription required), Frank Rich discussed a photograph taken by Magnum photographer Thomas Hoepker on Sept. 11, 2001, showing a group of young people chatting on the Brooklyn waterfront, apparently indifferent to the scene of destruction across the river. Slate has reproduced the photograph below, which the Times did not print with the column.
Hoepker did not publish the image until recently, in David Friend's book, Watching the World Change. Rich writes that it can serve as a powerful symbol for our national psyche:
Seen from the perspective of 9/11's fifth anniversary, Mr. Hoepker's photo is prescient as well as important—a snapshot of history soon to come. What he caught was this: Traumatic as the attack on America was, 9/11 would recede quickly for many. This is a country that likes to move on, and fast. The young people in Mr. Hoepker's photo aren't necessarily callous. They're just American. In the five years since the attacks, the ability of Americans to dust themselves off and keep going explains both what's gone right and what's gone wrong on our path to the divided and dispirited state the nation finds itself in today.
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