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25 Most Powerful Photos

In an image that reflects the Dantesque surreality of 9/11, witnesses watch flames spew from one of the several buildings -- in addition to the Twin Towers -- damaged or destroyed in lower Manhattan. Mario Tama's photograph has a vertiginous feel that recalls the swirl of emotions that we endured on 9/11 and, in a sense, in the years since. In layer upon layer, the image reflects the ordinariness of the day -- pedestrians, bicyclists, trees, street signs -- jarringly juxtaposed against an inferno. As details emerge (the police in the distance, the masks on people's faces, debris in the street), the image evolves from a portrait of mere disaster to a chronicle of a singular, era-defining cataclysm.

(Photo: Mario Tama/Getty Images)

For the full photo collection, go to LIFE.com

9/11: The 25 Most Powerful Photos

1 January 1970

One decade after 9/11, an unsettling number of images from Ground Zero and its environs remain seared in our collective memory -- unsurprising, perhaps, given the scope and scale of the destruction. But the fact that the deadliest, most visually arresting attacks occurred in New York City also meant that many of the world's best photographers were, in effect, already on the scene when the terrorists struck. Here, to mark the tenth anniversary of 9/11, and in hopes of lending coherence to our shared, turbulent recollections, LIFE.com presents the 25 most stirring, visceral photographs from that day, featuring pictures from the likes of James Nachtwey, Joe Raedle, Spencer Platt, Mario Tama, and other celebrated photojournalists (and one intrepid amateur). These are the pictures we remember: wrenching, indelible photographs that tell the tale of a still-resonant late summer day that changed everything.