Of all the 9/11 images readily available, the ones that twist my guts the most are not the extremely graphic ones, though there are many of those available with the click of a mouse.
It would be fair to describe it as one of the worst days in American history, if not the worst.
There are two photos of Father Mychal Judge that are very powerful. In one, he is praying over (maybe administering last rites) a firefighter killed by a falling body. In another–after being killed by either another body or falling debris–the Father’s dead body is seen as he is carried out of the building by a group of firefighters.
He did his job, fulfilled his calling.
And he died.
The worst for me, though, are the images of people jumping from the upper levels of the World Trade Center. From the Windows on the World restaurant. From Cantor Fitzgerald. In fact, there is one well-known image of a large group of Cantor Fitzgerald employees standing in the broken windows of their workplace, and it’s almost as if they were looking over a cliff. I guess they were, in a sense.
They didn’t jump in sequence, but there was a rhythm to it just the same. Some of them held hands. Some tried to parachute, until the wind from their fall ripped whatever they held from their hands.
Then there was the image of a person who came to be known as the “Falling Man.”
We’ve all seen it. He’s wearing a white coat–like a restaurant employee–and he’s head down. His leg is drawn up, knee neatly folded. He looks almost peaceful.
Of course, the image is one of a series, and the rest reveal the chaos of his descent. But for that one frame, he looks at peace with things.
There was nothing peaceful about it.
And when I think of 9/11, I think of that picture, and I agree with the “never again” statement.
And I remember.
The Esquire Magazine article “The Falling Man” surmises the Falling Man may have been food worker Jonathan Briley, though no one knows for sure. The article then says this:
“Is Jonathan Briley the Falling Man? He might be. But maybe he didn’t jump from the window as a betrayal of love or because he lost hope. Maybe he jumped to fulfill the terms of a miracle. Maybe he jumped to come home to his family. Maybe he didn’t jump at all, because no one can jump into the arms of God.
Oh, no. You have to fall.”