Air Today . . . Gone Tomorrow Article

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.


This article contains copyrighted material, the use of which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. I am making such material available in my efforts to advance understanding of democracy, economic, environmental, human rights, political, scientific, and social justice issues, among others. I believe this constitutes a 'fair use' of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material in this article is distributed without profit for research and educational purposes.

Take me back to learn more