September 9, 2004


Falling Bodies, a 9/11 Image Etched in Pain (KEVIN FLYNN and JIM DWYER, 9/10/04, NY Times)

Three years later, they remain open questions, and many people wonder if firm answers would lead to more pain or less, to practical lessons for society or to just a spectacle for the morbidly curious.

How many people jumped from the upper floors of the World Trade Center on Sept. 11?

Why did so many more people jump from the north tower than the south?

What floors did they come from?

Who were they?

The attack on the World Trade Center was one of the most observed catastrophes in history, and those who fell or jumped from the towers were, briefly, its most public victims. They emerged one or two at a time from a blanket of smoke and fire that rendered mass death virtually invisible. Nearly all the others killed that day - whether high in the trade center, on board the hijacked airplanes or deep inside the Pentagon - were beyond the sight of survivors and witnesses.

Those who came through the windows of the towers provided the starkest, most harrowing evidence of the desperate conditions inside. Since then, though, they have largely vanished from consideration. Newspapers rarely publish images of the falling people. Evacuation studies concentrated on the accounts of survivors.

The 9/11 Commission, which has compiled the most detailed history of the day, mentioned those who jumped only as they affected the people on the streets below.

Even now, there has been less fact-finding than guesswork. Some researchers say more than 200 people most likely fell or jumped to their death. Others say the number is half that, or fewer. None have been officially identified.

If you've not read it before, this story will haunt you, The Falling Man (Tom Junod, September 2003, Esquire)

Posted by Orrin Judd at September 9, 2004 11:04 PM

If I were speaking to Jacob right now,
I would say,
I've always loved the story of your ladder,
with the angels going up and down,
Once, when I was a child, I even dreamed I saw it.
I was in a field, and the clouds parted, and there it was.
And it looked like a long crowded highway,
the red lights were the angels going up
and the white lights were the angels going down.
But it was only a dream.
But last week, I wasn't dreaming, and I saw it.
I saw your ladder, its silver poles, and rungs of glass,
and I saw the angels falling down,
and they were so fast
and they were so beautiful and terrible.
and I saw in a cloud of white and gray,
thousands of angels going up, up, up...
And if I could, I would ask Jacob
if he wishes he could forget the vision of his ladder,
the way I wish I could forget mine. (Zoe Klein)

Posted by: Robert Schwartz at September 10, 2004 12:19 AM

Gen. 28:10-17 Jacob's Dream at Bethel

Jacob left Beer-sheba, and went toward Haran. And he came to a certain place, and stayed there that night, because the sun had set. Taking one of the stones of the place, he put it under his head and lay down in that place to sleep.

And he dreamed that there was a ladder set up on the earth, and the top of it reached to heaven; and behold, the angels of God were ascending and descending on it! And behold, the LORD stood above it and said, "I am the LORD, the God of Abraham your father and the God of Isaac; the land on which you lie I will give to you and to your descendants; and your descendants shall be like the dust of the earth, and you shall spread abroad to the west and to the east and to the north and to the south; and by you and your descendants shall all the families of the earth bless themselves. Behold, I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land; for I will not leave you until I have done that of which I have spoken to you."

Then Jacob awoke from his sleep and said, "Surely the LORD is in this place; and I, I did not know it." And he was afraid, and said, "How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven."

Posted by: Robert Schwartz at September 10, 2004 12:32 AM

Thanks, Robert.

Posted by: Peter B at September 10, 2004 8:55 AM