Overview – Delayering

One week after the first plane shot past my Soho studio at 500 miles per hour, I heard the word “delayering” on the radio. It struck me as describing the actual process of the World Trade Towers disappearing.  

I watched as the North tower dropped out of view. It was as though the building was being erased from top to bottom by an invisible animated hand. No sound, no smoke; only blue sky remained.

Months later, a New York City fireman and friend described a clicking or popping sound that firefighters heard that morning, probably the sound of each floor snapping free from its vertical supports. The mass increased as each floor crashed onto the one below. The structures delayered.

With the disappearance of the twin towers, a period of adjustment began in the United States and beyond. Delayering—90 days is a collection of short essays, documenting that process. 90 selections have been selected from the weeks and years following that blue-skied morning in 2001.    

Almost everyone remembers where they were that morning. A few details about events in the following days may remain vivid, but the larger stream of actions and reactions has dissolved, silently settling like fine dust into every aspect of our lives. The 90 entries in Delayering have been selected from fifteen years of writing between 2001 and 2016 and provide a direct reminder of small activities that have combined to affect and reveal our time.    

Stories we hear about that day often relate to grief and bravery. Delayering follows a different path by capturing the evolving quotidian aftermath of 9/11. Information is not interpreted; it is noticed with a human perspective from the vantage point of each recorded day.    

Jim Boorstein’s early training as a cabinetmaker and sculptor provides a tactile understanding of materials and design, which informs what he notices. As an architectural conservator, he is frequently called on to collect and record information that may be used generations in the future at museums such as the Getty and the Metropolitan in New York.

The painter Mark Rothko said: “A painting is not a picture of an experience, it is an experience.” Delayering offers a possible way to be present with what has passed — even if just for a moment. Like looking at a photograph of our childhood, something inside us can be stirred. 

A single, independent person’s detailed view, recorded in real time, holds a unique value.

James Boorstein

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