Saturday, September 26, 2009

"9/11: The Falling Man"

Everyday for almost a week now, I’ve been watching different documentaries about the 9/11 attacks on the towers of the World Trade Center. I suddenly got hooked on knowing different perspectives and new information about what happened that day. I remember how horrified I was when I first watched the attacks on TV. It was all so shocking and unreal at the time that I almost didn’t want to know about it or see any pictures.

Since 9/11 happened, I’ve heard a lot of thoughts and theories about what happened but I never really got into it. 8 years have passed since that day and now I’m interested to know more about it. There were a lot of very interesting aspects discussed in different documentaries, there was the political and conspiracy theories, and there was the whole talk about how 9/11 was an inside job and that it was all a scam. What I found even far more interesting were the documentaries that shed light on the human stories and the horror of that day. The stories told by journalists, photographers, fire fighters, police officers, street witnesses and survivors were heart breaking.

One of my favorite documentaries that I’ve seen was one called “9/11: The Falling Man”. It’s a 2006 documentary by American filmmaker Henry Singer about a picture of a man falling from the World Trade Center and the story behind that picture. The documentary had some interviews with some of the families that believe or know that their loved ones had jumped to their deaths from the towers. You get to see how different people think about it. Most of them considered it an act of bravery to accept death and be able to take a decision on how they’re going to die, choked to death by toxic smoke or jumping off the tower. What resonates in my head the most was something a man said about his wife whose body was found later on the street and was thought to have jumped, he said, “She flew”. The coroner's office refuse to call them “jumpers” and say that they were people who were blown out of the tower, forced to get out.

Something that the photographer of the images of those people falling said that made me think about how different people react to something as traumatic as what happened on that day, he said that he saw what happened and the people falling only through the lens of his camera and that it was somehow his way of isolating and sheltering himself from the reality of what’s happening. Another photographer is still very traumatized by the image of people falling till this day and still vividly remembers this falling lady in a blue jacket holding hands with another man.

Witnesses say there were people jumping in groups holding hands. A woman whose husband was stuck in the north tower told her he could see people jumping from the floors right above him because of the fire that was slowly spreading to where he was. She said he has been seeing people jumping from the floors above him for more than an hour. The woman does not know if her husband has jumped or stayed where he was until the building collapsed but you can never imagine what was going through his head seeing those people jumping from above him. It all makes you think of what you would have done if put in their position. And the thought itself is haunting and you don’t want to think about it, you don’t want to make a choice, it's too scary. In the documentary of the Naudet brothers, “9/11”, you could hear the very heavy and loud thump of people hitting the ground.

I’ve listened online to a phone conversation between a distressed woman stuck in one of the towers and a 911 dispatcher and the woman said something that when you think about is extremely sad and somewhat disturbing, she said, “Would you please stay with me on the line? I feel I’m dying”. She was scared and even though there were a few people in the office with her, she probably felt alone. She found comfort in the voice of the stranger on the other line telling her “You’re doing great. Stay calm”. Listening to the woman’s last words is haunting and reminded me of how small we are at the end of the day.

Follow the link to watch the documentary, “9/11: The Falling Man”*:


No comments: