Never Forget

A couple years ago, around 9/11, I was reading various posts all over the Internet about memories of that day – like where they were, what they saw, people’s reactions, etc., and one post from Quora stood out, so I saved it to my Evernote. (Unfortunately I didn’t grab any credits at the time, so I have no idea who actually posted it.) I thought I’d post that here, for my annual 9/11 post, just to remind everyone, once again, to never forget. If you’re easily disturbed, you might want to skip reading on. It’s short, but can be a bit disturbing. My apologies in advance. Here goes:

Did people jump from the WTC towers on 9/11 because their rooms were on fire and they were about to be burned alive?

It was too hot.

If you had been listening to the harrowing telephone messages left by the people who were trapped, with no way out, who made one last phone call to say goodbye — and no one answered — you would have heard them explain what they were about to do.

Some held hands with colleagues. Some wrapped their arms around people they worked with, and they stepped together into the empty air. Some went alone. No one understood the fire. No one understood why no one had come to save them.

Their last words were unforgettable. Their voices. Their deep regret. How calm some almost seemed. One young guy left a message for his brother: I’m sorry we fought; I love you.

One left a message for his mother. I love you, mom. I’m sorry.

I don’t think anyone understood what was happening — a plane, an explosion, why they were left there, and could not be saved.

Then for weeks, the recordings were played on the radio during New York City’s news coverage.

I had a friend who thought this public use of intimate, personal farewell messages was obscene. I disagreed. The tragedy of losing thousands of people so quickly in a single morning could be impersonally arms length, but for those voices.

If desk phones weren’t working, they used cellphones. The towers were built originally with helicopter landings. Many had expected, of course, to be lifted off the roof. There was no other way to get out. Slowly, they began to realize it would soon be over. They started to jump. “I have to go,” said one, and hung up.

The towers hadn’t fallen yet. No one knew that was going to happen. This is why so many people died.

At the base, office workers from buildings on Broadway and Liberty and Chase Manhattan Plaza walked over and stood at the bottom and watched as people dropped in front of them.

911_jumperI had a colleague named Tom whose young cousin worked in one tower. He prayed she would appear, safe. He walked over and stood next to a man who counted out loud each body as it hit the pavement. 26. 27. 28. “It was so weird.” She was never found.

For months, photos of the “Missing” were taped to walls by the people who loved them, all around Penn Station, on telephone poles, on the sides of buildings, lamp posts, pillars. Every surface of New York was covered with these color xeroxes. No one took them down.

Why did they jump?

There, on the roof, they waited as long as they could, until it was unbearably hot, and they simply could not stay there anymore. They apologized for dying, said goodbye, and went.