People who came to the [World Trade Center] site in those early days often had the same first sensation, of leaving the city and walking into a dream. Many also felt when they saw the extent of the destruction that they had stumbled into a war zone. “It’s like something you’d see in the movies,” people said. Probably so, but my own reaction was different when I first went in, soon after the attacks. After years of traveling through the back corners of the world, I had an unexpected sense not of the strangeness of this scene, but of its familiarity. Wading through the debris on the streets, climbing through the newly torn landscapes, breathing in the mixture of smoke and dust, it was as if I had wandered again into the special havoc that failing societies tend to visit on themselves. This time they had visited it upon us. The message seemed to be “Here’s a sample of our political science.” I was impressed by how faithfully the effects had been reproduced on the ground.
From American Ground: Unbuilding the World Trade Center by William Langewiesche.