Monday, September 11, 2017

9|11 - Requiem For the 10 Second Falls

            Whether you stood on a street in Manhattan or watched via live television as the disbelieving seconds of September 11th, 2001 ticked by, you may have witnessed what you thought, at first, was debris falling from the upper floors of the World Trade Center buildings only to slowly realize it was not inanimate objects, but people. It has been reported that up to 200 victims jumped to their deaths, but their mode of death has remained almost unspeakable, even 16 years later. Perhaps it is time to confront the unsettling truth and give those souls a final voice.

            Conditions on the floors above those gaping holes must have been horrendous. Though the jet fuel would have burned off within minutes, the contents of those offices would have given off toxic smoke the kind of which stings eyes and sears the lungs with each breath. It was reported to one family member that their loved one "couldn't move", a phrase which sounds ominous when considering the circumstances. Were they pinned in by pieces of the airplane or fallen debris or boxed in by a wall of flames? It is expected if they could have bettered their situation, they most certainly would have. For those who fell from the towers, they provide, perhaps, the most insight into the dire predicament caused when airliners ripped through office space.

            Obviously, some clung to a small hope of survival as they repurposed table cloths or drapes as makeshift parachutes. Others, unaware, ignoring, or oblivious to the laws of physics, may have envisioned outstretched arms at the bottom, catching them seconds before hitting the ground. Though hope may have trumped logic, they must have known that jumping meant certain death.

            So, why then do people shun any talk of those who leapt from the windows?  Possibly, it is because we think those victims epitomize a horror that is too much to bear even though their fate was the same as those who died in the collapse as one floor pan caked onto the next. However, maybe we should be looking at them in a different light, one that can give us all strength even in the most dire of situations.

            Terrorists may have orchestrated the fate of almost 3000 people, but, by stepping out into the cool fall air, giving them one last pure breath, those who jumped on September 11th, 2001 decided how they would die. 

            Some have felt compelled to identify those who fell from the towers but maybe it is good that no one can really be sure who the individuals are in those grainy images. Collectively, those victims demonstrate that even if someone else's actions seem to dictate the outcome of any situation, we can still retain some form of control.

             When we think of their silent journey's, we should remember the last 10 seconds of life for each person who jumped as acts of defiance when faced an impossible choice. Their very public way of dying shows how they took some power away from the hijackers that day, a final act that should never be forgotten.

Pauline Milner



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