Humanity In A Moment Of Desperation

911jumpers

Salon
What They Went Through
by Garrison Keillor

It was painful to hear the woman in anguish on the 83rd floor of the World Trade Center, crying, “I’m going to die, aren’t I? I’m going to die.” Melissa Doi was 32, beautiful, with laughing eyes and black hair. She was lying on the floor of her office at IQ Financial, overwhelmed by smoke and heat, calling for help. And then there was Kevin Cosgrove on the 105th floor, moments before it collapsed, gasping for breath, saying, “We’re young men, we’re not ready to die.” And then he screamed, “Oh my God” as the building started to collapse. It’s in their voices, what they went through. […]

This is an amazing column by Keillor and something that I personally needed to read (thank you, David).

For hours upon hours after the towers went down, I watched my neighbors leaping to their death on TV and on that day, I couldn’t, I wouldn’t turn away. I studied every moment. I did so because I inherently recognized that for every detail I could make out of their silhouetted images dropping through space and time towards their moment of blackness, I felt as if I was with them… and they weren’t alone.

In those fleeting seconds, their humanity was my humanity and mine—as much as I could will—was hopefully theirs.

As the moments and hours turned into days, which quickly turned into weeks and months, and life resumed to some form of normality in NYC, I began to lose such perspective.

Every day for the next 18 months, I commuted directly past the remains of the WTC on foot. I watched street vendors sell Ground Zero t-shirts and hats to tourists, while photographers—amateur and professional alike—lined up to document their moment in the aftermath of tragedy.

Over time, as I walked past the blue, particle board, construction walls that lined my path to Jersey City on the south side of the mass graveyard, I saw them evolve with graffiti, expressing the raw emotions of New Yorkers concerning 9/11, the victims and the impending wars. Ten months in, they were all painted over by city workers, just to be “thought vandalized” once again.

Somewhere within that surreal period of time, I stopped looking at images of that day and lost track as to why that person leaping from the tower meant so much to me, and much more importantly, why my attention hopefully meant something to him or her in those fleeting moments heading towards eternity.

I needed to say that out loud.