‘The United States of America is under attack’: Art Regarding Tragic 9/11 Attacks

‘The United States of America is under attack’: Art Regarding Tragic 9/11 Events

”The United States of America is under attack”. This is the expression of starting a new millennium that has changed the fate of people, of all people around the world. On this day in the year 2001, The World Trade Center was attacked by airplanes and collapsed which tragically caused people to get injured or die. Therefore, such a traumatic event has led artists to express their witnesses or feelings through art. We have been provided with photographs, news stories, comics, cartoons, or fiction mirroring the 9/11 tragic events in retrospect. The purpose of this article is to reveal some art pieces about 9/11. Firstly, I will analyze the short story ‘The Mutants’ written by Joyce Carol Oates. And then, I will move on to comment on the famous photograph ‘The Falling Man’. For the final remarks, I will mention Art Spiegelman’s ‘In the Shadow of No Towers’ comic book.

‘The Mutants’ by Joyce Carol Oates

The story vividly depicts the day of 9/11 and the attacks through an American woman who is captivated in her flat which is on the thirty-sixth floor of one of the towers in Manhattan. During the narration, we observe how this beautiful woman’s glorious life mutating into a threatening and strange after she witnesses the 9/11 attacks.

Therefore she is described as a stereotypical New Yorker that ‘she is loved by her fiancé’, wears luxury clothes and high-heels.  . We are told the attack scene through the woman’s mind throughout the narration. Firstly, she cannot identify if this is an earthquake which is almost impossible to happen in Manhattan. She is so confused that she thinks  it might be an accident happened on the street. She tries to calm herself down and tries to find a way to escape the building. The TV is not working, the electricity has gone and there is an odd smell in the air…

She finally decides, trembling, to have a bath which she assumes ‘a final’. The narrator comments on the woman’s final appearance that her hair ‘was no longer blond…, adrift in ash-water the color of her sullied Caucasian skin… She was hollow-eyed,… no longer the dreamy-eyed blond.’  

Thus, what Oates aims to emphasize is that  after the tragic events of 9/11, the people of the United States have experienced a collective trauma since they lost their family members, so, in the end, their lives have been reshaped and altered by their agony just like the unnamed woman in the story who cannot wear her high-heels anymore.  

The Falling Man

The photo named ‘The Falling Man’ was taken by the photographer Richard Drew. It is one of the icons and milestones of 9/11 attacks. The man in this capture was identified later on that his name is Jonathan Briley who worked as a sound engineer for Windows at the World Trade Center. The mystery of the photo will not be solved forever as it is not certainly known if the man jumps intentionally to escape or he ‘falls’ down.

In the Shadow of No Towers  by Art Spiegelman

The comic book of the Pulitzer Prize winning artist portrays the time of 9/11 and its aftermath.  He both expresses his agony through art and paying respect to the victims while he is criticizing the politics in the US. Additionally, the comics depict the heroic civilians and the firefighters who sacrifice themselves to rescue the ones who were captivated by the flames in the towers.  

Therefore, 9/11-related artists bring people together through their works of art by fostering a sense of collective loss. This collective spirit inspires artists and maintains art.

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