20/20 is perfect vision, a measure of normal sharpness and clarity of one’s sight, derived from the chart by Dutch ophthalmologist Herman Snellen in 1862. A typical Snellen chart consists of 11 rows of letters—formally known as optotypes—starting with one big character at the top, with each line decreasing in size, and increasing in the number of letters per row. It has come to imply a perfect (or perfectly sarcastic) intellectual vision as well—as in hindsight is always 20/20. In the year 2020 we were hit with an unprecedented virus that did not take a visionary to predict, yet few clearly saw what was coming.
Now we are at the 20-year commemoration of the Sept. 11 terror attacks—also marking 20 years since the United States went to war in (and on 8/31 pulled out of) Afghanistan.
Previously, I had always found comfort in the number 20; somehow it suggested balance and rightness. However, this 20th anniversary is sadly out of whack, out of focus, out of frame.
Adrian Wilson's latest mural has numerological resonance for me. Hindsight is clear but the longterm message is unclear. What have we learned in 20 years? What will we learn in the next 20?
"I wanted to commemorate the 20 years since the attacks on 9/11 and include all the needless deaths," Wilson explains. "It was important to get the opinions from those actually involved. My friend, former Navy SEAL Kayle Watson, and other SEALs gave their approval and confirmed all the numbers."
Wilson also contacted the men of Ladder 20, the local firehouse on the Bowery, "to ask if they were OK with me including the deaths in Afghanistan, and the response was 'yes,'" he adds. "I asked if they would do me the honor of completing the tribute by spraying the number who died in New York because it included many of their fallen brothers.
"As you can see, one firefighter didn't walk over to do it, they all came in their truck and added the absolutely perfect finishing touch. I gave them the stencil to have as a keepsake, alongside their other poignant 9/11 objects."
(Wilson notes: "Thanks and respect to those who helped. I am very humbled that my idea resonated with you so much.")