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In a Speck of 9/11 Dust,
a World of Chaos
By Jenna M. McKnight, New York Times,
September 7, 2004
When David Scharf first examined dust that
another photographer had scooped up from her quarantined apartment 350 feet from the
collapsed World Trade Center, he was a bit spooked.
Mr. Scharf, an Emmy-winning photographer
(for his work on a National Geographic film about parasites), has three scanning electron
microscopes in his home that he uses to produce highly magnified images of ordinary things
- fruit flies, fungi, even dental plaque.
He was curious to examine the dust.
"I wondered what exactly is in there," he said. But he did not want to disturb
the dead; he did not want to be looking at even microscopic human remains.
Fortunately, he did not find any signs of
life, like red blood cells. The dust contained mostly ash and fiberglass and an occasional
thread of asbestos. "It was an extremely high-energy, high-temperature event,"
he said. "Everything organic was incinerated."
He has captured images of the dust in a
series of prints (this one magnified about 275 times) that seem to show chaos itself. He
has presented them only at a microscopy conference. "Hardly anyone knows I've taken
these photographs," he said.
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