Thomas Hoepker, whose photo I posted previously, responded to the controversy sparked by Frank Rich’s interpretation.  I responded in turn:

The picture, I felt, was ambiguous and confusing: Publishing it might distort the reality as we had felt it on that historic day.

It doesn't matter what the subjects or the photographer were thinking at the time that the photo was taken.  What matters is what the photographer was thinking when he (initially) withheld it from publication.  As Hoepker said, he felt the pitcure was ambiguous, and ambiguity was the last thing many people wanted to feel in the days and weeks (and, unfortunately, years) after 9/11.  They wanted it to be Pearl Harbor.  Others wanted it to be Dealey Plaza. Some couldn't shake the impression that it was just Die Hard.

The people who would have been outraged by Hoepker’s photo in September 2001 and continue to express outrage five years later were relieved by the simplification they thought 9/11 brought to their lives.  "It was an act of war," they declared, and they have been desperate to keep that state of war going, lest they have to start thinking critically about enormously complex subjects, as the people in Hoepker’s photo appear to be doing.

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