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Gelatin's World Trade Center photos,
awaiting future installation.

Michael Richards with his sculpture, Tar Baby vs. St. Sebastian, at the Studio Museum in Harlem, 1999. Photo Frank Stewart.

Richard Phillips
The President of the United States of America
at Friedrich Petzel

Richard Phillips
Liberation Monument
at Petzel

PaceWildenstein's new gallery on West 25th Street, designed by Robert Irwin.

Phillip Lorca-diCorcia's photos at PaceWildenstein.

Peter Wegner
at Mary Boone Gallery
Day of Terror
by Charlie Finch

Stephen Vincent of Art and Auction called around 9 a.m.

"I’m on my roof. The World Trade Center’s just been hit." We turned on the TV just before the second plane struck.

Vincent screamed on the phone. "Oh my God! Oh my God! Oh my God!"

Gallery director Simon Cerigo called from his downtown roof. "I just saw a man jump off the tower and land on a fireman in the street. They’re both dead."

Dealer Stefan Stux, who lived just two blocks from the towers, barely got out of his apartment, before it was destroyed by flying debris from the collapse.

Dealer Daniel Silverstein, who also lived near the WTC, looked at the doomed souls above the fires in the twin towers:

"I saw three men and a woman holding hands. Their feet were on fire. They were melting. And then they jumped."

As the awful day unfolded, the New York art world coughed up tiny, now insignificant, ironies.

At Leo Koenig Gallery, just below Canal Street, the art collective Gelatin was getting ready to open that night.

A few weeks before, Gelatin had installed a small balcony, to great fanfare in the New York Times, outside the artists’ studios on floor 90 of Tower One, the place where artist Michael Richards died on Black Tuesday.

The following day, Danese Gallery called us. They had heard that we had heard that Richards might be alive.

We apologize profoundly for momentarily raising their hopes.

Among the living, artists sprang into action.

Dan Asher, whose beautiful photos of Greenland icebergs sold out last year, rushed into the bosom of hell to photograph drifts of jagged, smoldering glass, concrete, steel and human remains.

John Newsom, his newly opened show now an afterthought, rushed to his SoHo studio and worked all night to paint a ten-foot-high banner of the American eagle to hang outside his building.

Julien LaVerdiere, grieving for his friend Michael Richards, went to his roof to build a model of a New World Trade Center Concept, commissioned by Creative Time for the cover of this Sunday’s New York Times Magazine.

The reputed space between art and life had suddenly closed. The making of art, older and more primal than civilization itself, passed from the elites back to the people, in piles of flowers outside the firehouse on Lafayette Street, which lost so many of the Bravest.

In the terrible and touching posters of the missing, one in the lobby of our home, a vibrant 30-year-old man named Stuart Lee, apartment 2A.

In flags more poignant, ubiquitous and precious than any by Jasper Johns.

On Saturday, we walked through Chelsea, to make connections and show the art-world flag.

Most galleries were open, but nobody was there. Every piece was transformed by the death of innocents on Black Tuesday.

At Friedrich Petzel, Texan Richard Phillips’ satirical lavender portrait of President Bush stared forlornly across the space at his painting of two gray, dust-covered figures, looking just like survivors.

At Pace’s beautiful new 25th Street gallery, Philip Lorca diCorcia’s strobe shots of lonely New Yorkers caught the mood of desolation and fear. How could he have known?

At Mary Boone, Peter Wegner’s shimmering grids of light and color were the World Trade Center itself.

Suddenly, Vanessa Beecroft’s Navy Seal series were the images of the future . . . next week.

This is a war whose most recent phase began at Lockerbie in 1989.

Six CIA agents were reported by New York magazine to be on the doomed Pan Am plane. Our government furiously denied it.

Dozens of witnesses saw a missile fired from a boat in Long Island Sound bring down TWA Flight 800.

Multiple witnesses saw Middle Eastern-looking men accompany Timothy McVeigh in the days before the Oklahoma City bombing.

When an Egyptian pilot prayed to Allah while crashing his plane and passengers into the Atlantic, our government argued with the Egyptian authorities for months about the pilot’s intentions.

Through it all a sense has lingered in progressive circles that our government was clumsily trying to protect us from the truth, to prevent mass panic.

The truth hit us hard, without warning, in the capital of the world, on Black Tuesday. The government could not protect the American people, and, as always, throughout our history, the American people will fight and die to protect our government.

We will more than meet the task. Let us walk together, fearlessly, with our eyes wide open, into hell.

CHARLIE FINCH is co-author of Most Art Sucks: 10 Years of Coagula (Smart Art Press)