The Breakfast Table

Awful, Iconic Images


Danny Pearl had been missing for so long that I’d begun, before last night, to mentally lump him in with those victims of Sept. 11 whose bodies haven’t been found.

I’d also been thinking a lot about a devastating book that came out a few years ago, a book I’ve been surprised that more people haven’t mentioned in light of the events of the past few months—The Missing, by the British journalist Andrew O’Hagan. It’s a very smart, and feeling, exploration of what happens when people vanish and the effects not only on those close to them but the effects on all of us.

O’Hagan’s book has one of the most haunting cover images I’ve ever seen on a book: the surveillance camera image of that British toddler, James Bulger, being led away from a Liverpool mall by one of the 10-year-old boys who will eventually kill him.

Now we learn that there’s a video of Danny Pearl’s death. And I suppose we can expect to see it any minute on Al-Jezeera. I hope not. I’m praying that Pearl’s last moments don’t become just another awful, iconic image.


P.S.: Well, Katie, that pretty much does it on my end. There are certainly a lot of other things we could have talked about in this morning’s papers. (I’m sure I could have whipped up a little glee, for example, over the fact that the government has ordered commercial airlines to, for security reasons, to knock it off with those VIP lines. Class rage is so easy, and so much fun.) But somehow it doesn’t seem like the day.