Polaroid

The Collector

On a warm Saturday in early July, an employee at the Maryland Historical Society placed a call to the police. He had noticed two visitors behaving strangely—a young, tall, handsome man with high cheekbones and full lips and a much older, heavier man, with dark, lank hair and a patchy, graying beard. The older man had called in advance to give the librarians a list of boxes of documents he wanted to see, saying that he was researching a book. At some point during their visit, the employee saw the younger man slip a document into a folder.

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By the time I reached the roof of my apartment building on 21st Street, one of the towers was already gone. All you could see was a plume of smoke. An elderly tenant, who lives in the penthouse, was leaning over her railing, blinking at it. "Some fool flew right into it," she said. The doorman, Miguel, pulled out a Polaroid camera and took a snapshot. "I saw the plane come right in and hit it," he told me. "It was too low." We stood there for a while not sure what to do. More and more people came up.

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