On September 11, 2001, while my visual cortex was registering the endlessly replaying images of towers sliced by airplanes, then crumbling in orange-red fire and gray-black smoke against a white light and a blue sky, I also saw the shorn, wounded, vacuous horizon, and suddenly felt overwhelmed by the utter triumph and exhilarating power the planners must have been feeling at that very moment as they eyed the same landscape. Their jubilation and triumph, I imagined, must have been a milestone experience,1 a sense of an obstacle removed, a limit erased. I imagined how, for them, the skies had now opened to heaven, clearing a direct path to God. I could feel the destroyer's gaze as it fastened on the mutilated skyline and I wondered whether my view was indeed a counterpart to the image that imprinted the dying terrorist's mind as he joyously became fire.
Even if my internal picture of the torn skyline is far from what went through the terrorists' brain in those unknowable moments of rushing toward death, this still could have been, I speculated, the terrorist's anticipatory fantasy before the event, or at the moment when he was assaulting the plane's passengers shouting AllahHuAkbar, God is tremendous. That awesome moment brought home to me the vast proportions of a triumph, a joy, a sense of unbounded self-validation, a vindication, an otherworldly liberation, a feeling that the sky, far from being the limit, was the way to heaven. There was sense that this feeling was too dreadful to deal with; for a moment I had a sharp intuition that articulating this pleasurable emotion, this jouissance, was far worse than confronting the hatred that had led to these attacks. The feeling quickly vanished, but I realized that I had overstepped a boundary: I had entered for a moment