Every year, on the anniversary of Nine-Eleven ...

by Terry 17 Replies latest jw friends

  • Terry



    Get out of here—this is my father’s funeral; you don’t belong here; you are a liar!”


    The woman’s face reflected terrible pain—the worst pain possible, to the point of breakdown.
    A thousand unanswered questions washed from her eyes by the flow of many tears.
    She was bent forward slightly—not from physical infirmity—but the burden of suffering; a suffering shared by her family.

    A stranger was now speaking to her and in his trembling hand she caught sight of the photograph.
    There was pleading in his voice, a quiet voice, and something in his eyes meant her no harm . . . so she dropped her gaze . . . and immediately collapsed.

    (Elsewhere) The Editor and his staff listened quietly and nodded hesitating.

    “I don’t know who this is, but it’s pretty clear he was somebody.”

    Faces around him simply stared back at him. His people wanted to listen, wanted to be convinced. Yet, at the same time, they didn’t want to do the wrong thing in the wrong way at this—the worst of all possible wrong times.
    Somebody--a photographer-- had spoken these words:

    “A carpenter reaches for his hammer without thinking. I’m a photographer—I reached for my camera and started taking pictures . . . that’s all it was . . . that’s all.”
    Once again, referring to THAT photograph.

    Outside the office, a bustle of activity bespoke controlled chaos. Like an anthill stomped upon, a flurry of busy randomness had seized everyone in an invisible panic.

    “I’d like to know. But—it’s not my call. I don’t know what I’m asking, but maybe you all do.
    WHO is the man in this photograph? Somebody needs to get on this.”

    ____What Happened___

    The clear morning sky gave bright promise to the optimism of a perfect day. It was the kind of day even the most jaded urban sophisticate could glance at sideways and give up a begrudging smile of approval.

    Traffic zipped or stalled to the pattern of signal lights along the avenues. Horns honked as shoe leather patted concrete sidewalks in a pattern of big city syncopation. Commuters and panhandlers danced through the motions of survival at both ends of a Darwinian paradise of tall, tall buildings and crisp fall air.

    It is 9:41 a.m.

    The photographer snatched his camera up and took off at a brisk jog exactly to the spot where he suddenly froze. “The carpenter reached for his hammer without thinking about it,”
    He is Richard Drew and he would later explain to the others, “The carpenter reaches for his hammer without thinking about it,” just as he pointed his camera upward toward the object which had caught his professional eye in the viewfinder, as he began snapping instinctively. There was no right or wrong about it—he snapped and his lens followed as it covered almost fifteen hundred feet of vertical space, top to bottom in a blink, snap, blink, snap, blink of an eye.


    A theologian was asked to comment in the aftermath and he reluctantly agreed.

    The photograph laid out in front of him seemed to be all stripes of black, gray and white with a random speck near the top. Rev. Doctor Thompson adjusted his glasses and drew in a slow, deep breath as if bracing himself for the worst. It took a few moments, like a strong drink swallowed too fast, burning on the way down until. . .he removed his glasses again and pinched the top of his nose as his eyes tightly squinted. The next day, newspapers reprinted his comment.

    "Perhaps the most powerful image of despair at the beginning of the twenty-first century is not found in art, or literature, or even popular music. It is found in a single photograph."


    Next day, on page 7 of the New York Times, the world stared at Drew’s photo. Reaction volleyed back immediately like the image in Edvard Munch’s painting, The Scream—an excruciating wail of anger, pain and denial sweeping back upon the ‘monsters’ who would publish such an image!


    Official quote from the New York Medical Examiner’s office:

    "A 'jumper' is somebody who goes to the office in the morning knowing that they will commit suicide. These people were forced out by the smoke and flames or blown out."


    Only one man seemed driven to ask the questions nobody else dared to ask. In his curiosity and determination, he questioned the wrong people—showing them the terrible photograph.
    After all, he was guessing—and guessing means getting it wrong as easily as getting it right. If the unknown was too great a burden for him to bear, so too was it an unthinkable abomination—a blasphemy for the Hernandez family at their father’s funeral. It was a sin to commit suicide and it would send their beloved Norberto to the fires of hell! The daughter lashed out with her bitter words and sent reporter Peter Cheney back out into the street, stunned at the damage his questions had wrought.

    Cheney’s quest lurched forward. Another possibility arose: Jonathan Briley. Was he the falling object in the cursed picture? If so, he’d be memorialized forever suspended upside down in mid-air, one improbable knee bent, as the slim healthy man plummeted at maximum velocity toward infinity below. Briley’s brother, Timothy identified him by his clothes and shoes, as well as a ridiculous orange undershirt barely visible as the white shirt ballooned out in the updraft of the awful fall—he remembered his brother wearing it that morning.

    His grief-stricken sister told the reporter, "When I first looked at the picture ... and I saw it was a man—tall, slim—I said, 'If I didn't know any better, that could be Jonathan.”’

    Approximately 200 people fell or jumped that day. None was deemed a “jumper,” but a victim of blunt force trauma in a murderous attack on the World Trade Center.

    The Hernandez family was again contacted and their minds put at ease—not a minute too soon. Norberto’s daughters had been torn apart by embittered consciences stricken by devout Catholic teaching. At last they could accept he had simply been one victim—a martyr to be sure—among the 2,996 which perished inside.

    Of all the unspeakable horror of that day of infamy, the photograph—a portrait of a man falling—became the focal point of unacceptable remembrance.


    None could or would accept the small measure of “choice” implied in this man’s demise. The only possible way the human mind could categorize the event was in terms of murder—not elective suicide.

    Few persons could wrap their mind around the idea of “postponement” of the inevitable, in those few incredible minutes out in the open air—free of smoke and terrible flames—the illogical logic of not wanting to be incinerated in choking blackness and screams. . . Yet—it is so remarkably beautiful to come away with a powerful sense of defiance and freedom in that last act—refusal to accept a death chosen for them by brutal sadists on a feckless and twisted Jihad.

    To jump and sail free in an impossible escape on the wings of God’s angels—or the simple purchase of five seconds more of precious life—who are we to judge this man or the 200 others and affix blame or assign moral verdicts?

    In that moment of 9:41 a.m. September 11, 2001—there is an eternal portrait of a man falling. He who may have greater courage than any human has ever shown. 1,500 feet of flight on a most beautiful day with its morning sun bright and clear, and a casual breeze softly caressing his flight in a transcendent prayer of human dignity.

    FREEDOM at any cost.

    (This essay of mine was inspired by the documentary: 9/11 The Falling Man)

  • smiddy3

    My heart goes out to all of these people and especially those left alive initially in those buildings before those buildings came tumbling down ,

  • resolute Bandicoot
    resolute Bandicoot

    18 years down the track and there has been honest inquiry into the motive of the offenders.


  • zeb

    from this great distance i wonder what of the the other building that fell the next day

  • RayoFlight2014

    Oh yes indeed Terry those images were very powerful and devastating.

    There is a conflict in my mind between the importance of historically capturing such tragedy and the repulsion I feel knowing someone filmed the individual's private suffering.

    The questions posed by some reporters can be quite idiotic and thoughtless. Some can be eloquent and be of historical value.

    All who saw this will forever feel the echoes.

    Globally we all lost something that day.

    Our thoughts will be with the families who lost loved ones and we stand united with our allies and friends over in the United States.

  • LoveUniHateExams

    I saw the documentary The Falling Man on TV a few years ago.

    I remember hearing that some sections of the media either outright labelled the jumpers 'cowards' or implied cowardice. The documentary argued that the opposite was the case - these unfortunate people found themselves in a terrible situation not of their own doing and chose when and how it would end for them.

  • Terry

    In 1941 Pearl Harbor became the galvanizing moment which rallied
    strong feelings toward payback and the U.S. entered WWII.
    Sixty years later, on Nine-Eleven, the 'best' we could come up with was to go after a non-related entity and we've been stuck ever since.
    At least WWII ended.
    I think at last count the U.S. is in about eight wars in foreign lands.
    It's difficult to pry myself away from the notion that warfare very seldom
    restores sanity after chaos but seems to make enough people "feel better" that the cycle never ends.
    I was alive during the Korean "war" and the Vietnam imbroglio. That last one split American into pieces and we've never recovered.
    Is there a lesson here to be learned? Actually, I don't think so.

  • LoveUniHateExams

    9/11 was the worst single terrorist incident of all time. On one day 3,000 innocent people were killed. A military response from the US was necessary.

    9/11 directly caused two wars: the Afghanistan War and the Second Iraq War. I believe the US was right to go into Afghanistan and topple the jihadi training camps, bomb Al Qaeda there and dismantle the Taliban. The Taliban had given a murderous Osama bin Laden refuge. A few years earlier, bin Laden had declared war on America. Nobody took any notice because at the time he came across as an Arab crackpot. Well, it turned out he was deadly serious. The US seal team was totally justified in shooting him dead in 2010.

    However, I believe the US was wrong to attack Iraq. Saddam Hussein was a typical Arab dictator. A nasty person but he had nothing to do with Al Qaeda or Islamic terrorism. Both the US & the UK were wrong to invade Iraq.

  • Terry


    Here's the guy who was the only source of totally B.S. information
    about weapons of mass destruction. His motive was to take over
    leadership of Iraq himself.

  • Finkelstein

    I was working on the outside of a house that day which was very close to a major airport, watching the planes come in one after other, thinking oh oh this could be something big.

    The people who witnessed that day live will probably never forget it and might be good to also remember what instigated that violent massacre of so many innocent people..

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