What is the texture of a disaster? What are the earliest moments of grief, masquerading as shock?
Vine, which launched less than three months ago, is an app that lets people record six-second snippets of video that play over and over. And today it came of age. I would submit that this six-second loop, captured from the local news, tweeted tens of thousands of times, left open in a browser window to repeat endlessly, re-engaging the trauma of an event still in progress, has the potential to become what was previously the preserve of still photographs: the iconic image of a disaster. It is just short enough to be burned into the memory in its entirety, while capturing far more of an event than a single image can. It is the scratchy, penny-arcade version of today, playing again and again, until, like memory, it’s extinguished.
As Don DeLillo wrote in Underworld, describing footage of a murder: “The more you watch the tape, the deader and colder and more relentless it becomes. The tape sucks the air right out of your chest but you watch it every time.”
Whatever the outcome—whatever the source of this terror, the subsequent debates, the scoring of cheap political points—maybe this becomes the image by which we will all remember.