I feel the need to write something about those persons who leapt from the WTC towers during the attack of 9/11/01.
To me, and I guess to pretty much everybody, these were the most frightening and horrific deaths of all the deaths that occurred that day.
When I think about 9/11 it is this that disturbs me, and it has been ungentle on my mind as this anniversary has approached.
There is a lot of talk about how these images have been “censored”, and maybe that is so. One thing about images, they stay with you. That is why one picture is, truly, worth a thousand words. Anyone who has seen any one of the photos of any of the tragic people falling to their death will NEVER forget it. I don’t think this aspect of the attacks will really go down the “memory hole”, but it will be minimized, because truly it is almost too much to bear.
Nothing I have read really explicates why these images are are so frightening, how they touch on the universal fear of death.
The universal conceit as someone once said is: all shall die, but I shall live. And, admit it, we all do share this conceit, even though we know it is erroneous.
There is also the concept of “when your number’s up, your number’s up”. And that is also true. And this is where it all breaks down and makes the reality of the WTC jumper so disturbing.
The jumpers had to choose. They had to choose to die, they had to throw themselves headlong into death, because they had no choice. They had to choose because all their choices were taken away. They had been thrown into a situation where “logic and proportion have fallen sloppy dead” and they had NO CHOICE but to follow in kind.
No wonder this is so frightening.
It forces one to contemplate: what if I had to jump from the WTC? From the 90th floor? The 100th floor?
If you read this article, which is very, extremely, good (I may have to re-think my whole view of Esquire) you will see that there is a great aversion to thinking that it is your family member leaping.
We cannot think of these people as committing suicide. They were doomed, truly doomed to death and they knew it. For all we throw these phrases around, I’m doomed, doomed to death, there’s no way out, no one here gets out alive…..well for them all those metaphorical expressions became unutterably true, in the space of a very short time, on one of the the most beautiful mornings any of them had ever seen.
I think those who leapt from the WTC were very brave, incomprehensibly brave. I doubt I would have been so brave. I only hope I never need to find out.
RIP Falling Men and Falling Women I know the Angels caught your Souls.