‘Jumpers’ forgotten in the aftermath of the September 11, 2001, attacks on U.S
Sept. 11, 2001, has been forever etched into the conscious of the American public. Captured live on television and broadcast into our homes for days as the clean-up of the tragedy continued for months. However, one image captures the tragedy of that day, and many people are not even aware of its existence.
At 8:46 a.m. the first plane struck the north tower at the World Trade Center. The people trapped above the 93rd floor of the tower were forced to make a decision about their deaths: Stay inside the smoke filled building as temperatures raised higher and higher to wait for help that would take more time than they had, or jump.
Associated Press photographer Richard Drew took an iconic photo of one of the unidentified people trapped on the upper floors of the World Trade Center tumbling through the air to their death titled “The Falling Man.”
The picture, like many other images of the same topic, were only printed once in the days after 9/11, replaced by pictures/videos of the heroic first responders and the country coming together for healing amid the tragedy.
As much as the controversial images and topic have been hidden, it did happen.
According to witnesses on that day, people trapped inside the intense heat and smoke made that decision quickly in the north tower, which is where most of the “jumpers” occurred.
Initially many people couldn’t believe it was happening; they thought it must be debris. It had to be debris.
But announcements that a firefighter command post was moved away from the towers, a falling body killed a firefighter and the New York fire commissioner was nearly killed when a body landed 15 feet away as he went to meet Mayor Rudy Giuliani, it became a stark reality of the day.
Although it has been estimated that 200 people jumped from the towers to escape the horrific carnage going on inside, no one will ever truly know how many had to make such a terrible decision.
The medical examiner’s office couldn’t determine who jumped because the injuries were similar to those suffered by the people killed in the collapse of the towers. The manner of death for all those who died was listed as homicide on death certificates.
I think that is appropriate considering the terrorist actions that took place that day.
I remembered watching the television footage and wondering to myself what I would have done if trapped between a fiery death or leaping out a window. I don’t think it was a decision to live, they might have thought there could be a slim chance at survival - there are miracles in this world - but ultimately I do think they were choosing how they were going to die. For me, they took that away from the terrorists.
Although the morbid facts of their deaths remains one of the most sensitive and stigmatic topics surrounding 9/11, it is a part of the story that should be remembered as well. In their own act of defiance they made tragic decisions that should remind us always that we are all in charge of our destiny. Their deaths make September 11, 2001 forever memorable, forever heroic and forever real.