We Don’t Prepare For Disaster

"The Falling Man." 9/11/01

“The Falling Man.” 9/11/01










Although I work in an airport, Thursday didn’t surround me with many reminders of what day it was. Maybe most feel uncomfortable mentioning it while dozens of planes fly down the runway in front of them. Should we go on as if nothing is out of place?

I lay on my couch yesterday evening, watching YouTube videos of live footage from September 11, 2001. It’s strange, how sometimes we want to hurt; we throw ourselves into the carnage and wait for the tears to come. Sometimes it helps to remember, to let our hearts break all over again. So that’s what I did. I watched the most painful videos I could find, and I made myself hurt at an age where I could comprehend. I was only thirteen then, and that day was a blur of 9AM gym class and wondering why we were sent home early.

In the midst of my search I came across The Falling Man. We’re all familiar with one of the most disturbing details of that day – the thought that it was so bad up there, so hopeless, that dozens found another way “out”. I pressed play and watched this stranger tumble from a window. An interview with someone who had seen the video said it wasn’t a serene fall. He rolled several times, he propelled his arms and legs; the wind pulled off his button-up, revealing an orange t-shirt underneath. Someone’s son, someone’s friend, perhaps someone’s father.

When I look at the photograph above I ask myself unexpected questions. The shoes he’s wearing – where did he buy them? Were they new? I wonder what it felt like, suspended in air on a September morning, free falling down the side of the World Trade Center instead of sipping on coffee or watching the news.

When we tuck ourselves into bed at night we don’t prepare for disaster. We lay out our clothes or drink a glass of wine and pray for Friday to come fast. But sometimes we have to choose whether jumping or turning to dust is best for us.

For me, The Falling Man is the purest symbol of one of the most tragic occurrences in American history. This stranger reminds us never to go to sleep angry. Kiss our loved ones. Eat well and drink well. Never take a single day for granted. Tomorrow may hold one of the hardest decisions we’ll ever have to make.


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15 responses to “We Don’t Prepare For Disaster

  1. I don’t associate pain with 9-11, so much as I do the loss of innocence (or whatever naive facsimile of innocence we had managed to cling to, after Oklahoma and the Kohl). I watched the 2nd plane hit live on TV, and I knew at that moment, that nothing would ever be the same again – and I mourned for who we would become. Worst of all, looking back 12 years later? I did not imagine enough…

  2. merbear74

    All my thoughts, exactly. That image haunts me.

  3. calahan

    The people that jumped was (and still is) the most haunting image from that day. It was very much a symbol of making one last decision on your own behalf, not letting someone else dictate how you are going to die. Did the Falling Man find peace in those final moments? I have no idea and never will.

  4. So beautifully put. Never take anything for granted.

  5. This is one of the best tributes to that day that I’ve read. Last week friends took us to Las Vegas. Me, from a town of 150, into that huge city. We stayed at the Stratosphere, with a huge tower that people jump from, paying $110 for the opportunity to take the worlds highest controlled fall. My husband wanted to do that. When I asked why, he said so he could remember those who made the choice on 9/11. When we got to the top, and he looked over the edge, he couldn’t do it. But at least he went high, looked down, and remembered.

  6. Oh so thought provoking…. !
    I liked your take on the event.

  7. I remember like it was yesterday. Chilling image.

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