On September 11th 2001, a photograph that came to be know as The Falling Man was taken, of an unknown man plunging to his death from one of the upper floors of the North Tower of the World Trade Centre. It prompted Mark D. Thompson of Moore Theological College to observe that “…perhaps the most powerful image of despair at the beginning of the twenty-first century is not found in art, or literature, or even popular music. It is found in a single photograph.”
I’m inclined to agree. Since then, I’ve seen more appalling imagery of death and suffering than I care to recall, but nearly thirteen years after the Falling Man seared himself into our collective consciousness, I think the most soul-corroding image I’ve seen is not of one man falling to his death from a high place, but of tens of thousands of people being forced up onto an arid mountaintop near Sinjar in north-western Iraq out of fear of being slaughtered, while at the same time having to endure hunger, thirst, lack of sanitation and exposure to the elements. I learn that an international effort is now underway to assist these people and I hope it is successful, but the nightmare vision of so many men, women and children finding themselves in such a position is not one I think I will ever forget.
In one of those grim ironies of life imitating art, I read that the first appearance of the demon Pazuzu in the film The Exorcist was filmed in Sinjar. The film was fiction, but now something truly devilish is being enacted in the same place.