There was a strange sort of electricity in the air this weekend, the tenth anniversary of 9/11. Choppers hovered above Midtown, construction cranes flanked the Ground Zero site, and flags returned to telephone poles. Even if residents of New York did not participate in discussion panels or read nonfiction narratives in The New Yorker; even if they tended to afternoon cocktails or children instead of attending museum openings; there was a peculiar energy in this city that was difficult to ignore: sirens seemed more frequent, subway pauses felt less ordinary, and the rumble of an airplane sounded louder than normal. Weaving through rush hour foot traffic in Bryant Park one got the feeling that the entire city was holding its breath.

“Memory Remains: 9/11 Artifacts in Hangar 17,” an installation featured in the International Center of Photography’s exhibition Remembering 9/11 (through January 8, 2012), harnesses this anxious silence. The exhibition space of “Memory Remains,” a small, carpeted room in the basement of the ICP, is as quiet and constricted as a sound booth. Inside, Francesc Torres’s images, broadcast in floor-to-ceiling slideshows, present images of the twisted steel bars, space age broadcast antennae, and broken subway turnstiles that were salvaged from the Ground Zero. “This could not be my world,” you tell yourself, imagining that these rusty artifacts from a salvaged ship, a foreign war, or a fallen dictatorship. Then you see something: a defunct train car with ad for the 2001 U.S. Open.

In an era when the rhetoric of tragedy has been co-opted by so many; an aging subway ad, newspaper clipping, or metro card, have the ability to access a truth that exceeds the grasp of words. “Like a rest in music,” Sissy Spacek’s character says in In the Bedroom, “no sound but so loud.”

The ICP is offering free admission and tours of Remembering 9/11 from 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. on Sunday, September 11. “Memory Remains: Artifacts at Hangar 17” is presented in association with the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.

Claire Lambrecht

Claire Lambrecht writes about media, education, politics, and culture in publications like the New York Times, Slate, Salon, and CBS MoneyWatch.

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