911  2001
An Attack by Political Extremists using Hijacked Airliners
J. I. Nelson, September 2011

Part 3: Taking charge.
In the North Tower, 1344 were doomed.  
200 took charge of how to die. 
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Falling Pixels - 9/11 WTC jumper
Photo: J.I.Nelson from Richard Drew

Fire battalion chief Joseph Pfeifer put out a desperate plea on the North Tower’s public address system.
"Please don’t jump. We’re coming up for you," he said,
not realizing that nobody was listening — the system had long since been destroyed.

FALLING MAN.  Photo: Richard Drew - AP              
Click to enlarge.                                        
911 WTC - A North Tower jumper at 9:41, one of about 12 frames of his tumbling descent caught by photographer Richard Drew. 104 jumps are photographically documented, all but 3 of them from the North Tower, struck first but collapsing  second.  The total number is probably closer to 200.  

Although only 3 jumps are photographically documented for the South Tower, one person hit fire fighter Danny Suhr, instantly killing him as well as himself.  Father Judge, the priest who gave Danny his last rites, was later killed by falling debris.  

The first recorded fall occurred just over four minutes [8:50am] after the first plane hit, from the 149th window of the 93rd floor on the north face of the building.  By 10AM, the rate was nine people in six seconds from five adjacent windows.  The last person died with the tower at 10:28:09, from the 106th floor -- photographer Richard Drew discovered later that he had two frames that showed someone clinging to debris as he fell with the building.

WITH GRATITUDE FOR THE LIVES SAVED.   In the North Tower, two hundred doomed souls made a choice that cut South Tower fatalities by thousands. Many South Tower survivors say the sight of people jumping -- some could see the faces -- created an urgency that caused them to leave immediately and ignore announcements that it was safe to return to their desks. The Towers might have had over 10,000 people each, but it was early (no tourists yet) and occupancy at attack time was estimated at 5,000 to 7,000 per tower.  About 1,400 people evacuated the South Tower upper floors before the second jet hit, leaving about half as many trapped as in the North Tower.  (The number  trapped in the South Tower was 600 to 700 within or above the floor 78-84 strike zone,  vs 1344 people between just  the 93-98 strike zone and the top, 110th,  floor in the North Tower.)   The choice to die suddenly by impact rather than slowly by asphyxiation or burning was also a choice to die publicly.  That choice was decisive in saving the lives of many of those  1400 people in the other tower who would have been trapped by impassable staircases above the impact but left instead.   And that choice helped save many of the other 3,000 to 5,000 souls below impact who would have been crushed, but instead  evacuated, not because of what they were told, but because of what they saw and knew was happening in their sister tower.  No individual one of us wants ever to stand at that window and face an abyss of hopelessness, but all of us as a society and as a nation can add gratitude to the powerful, private feelings each of us carries -- forever -- about the horrors of 9/11.  

Of the 104 photographically-documented suicides, why were all but three from the North Tower?  In the South Tower, people who ignored their supervisor's orders to return to their desks, people who did not listen to the "no danger, all safe" intercom announcements were the "take charge" people who took charge of their own lives and left.  In the North Tower, the people who took fullest charge of their own lives are the ones who jumped.  

You may stop here and consider the rest of this another time.  You are in Part 3, Taking Charge.  

People who lost those they loved in the North Tower have studied these photographs more than you or I ever will.  They have sought out and sat down at computer monitors with the original photographers to study images -- iconic or never published -- to confirm or finish private fears or hope.   Leave them the space to do this.

For some, a jump is only a suicide, and a suicide is always an act against God and condemnation to Hell.  Leave them a grip on their honor.  Give them their space.

Forcing people to jump out the windows for relief is the ultimate failure for building fire safety professionals.   These photographs are the last thing building safety analysts, fire control designers and architects ever want to see.  Perhaps that is why our National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST, the former "Bureau of Standards") has studied all of them that exist to determine the number of jumps that can be documented -- the time, the floor, even the window to which people were able to make their way.   Surely anyone can understand why such data must be generated by looking at photos some of us do not want to see.  

Nobody went to work that day intending to kill themselves. This is not simply suicide. The people who jumped had to make the biggest decision of their lives, and the most private one, and yet do it in public.  You and I have our privacy.  Pause in your privacy before condemning the dead or judging the living.  We were not there, and we never ever in our lifetimes want to stand at that window.  

Other Americans have tried to prevent fellow Americans from taking these photographs, have denounced those that displayed them, have threatened to kill others for displaying a reminder of them (as art in a gallery).   Most of the following photos have sat on my hard drive since a Tuesday or Wednesday in a beautifully sunny September ten years ago. My country's leaders spent those ten years focusing political attention and national wealth on the losers of the globalization race -- al Qaeda, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq.  We squandered blood and treasure on losers while the winners pulled ahead of us with their dominance in manufacturing, solar power (Germany, China), education and national infrastructure.  We devoted ourselves to what we do worst -- nation building -- in areas that matter least, when we should have been concentrating on nation building in the nation that matters most to all of us: our own.

With these photos, I will find the courage to face all that was done to us on that day.  Knowing all that they did to us, facing all that we have done to them, I will accept only an honorable and wiser future for my country.

In this essay, I have drawn on the  story of Falling Man, told by Tom Junod with power and sensitivity:   
 "The Falling Man"
by Tom Junod,
in Esquire Magazine  
8 September 2009  
I thank Tom Junod for writing it, and Esquire Magazine for leaving it on the Internet.

After they printed Richard Drew's photograph above of a falling man, papers all over the country, from the Fort Worth Star-Telegram to the Memphis Commercial Appeal to The Denver Post, were forced to defend themselves against charges that they exploited a man's death, stripped him of his dignity, invaded his privacy, turned tragedy into leering pornography. Most letters of complaint stated the obvious: that someone seeing the picture had to know who it was. Still, even as Drew's photograph became at once iconic and impermissible, its subject remained unnamed.

The resistance to the images of the jumpers started immediately.  There was a mother whispering to her distraught child a consoling lie: "Maybe they're just birds, honey." Bill Feehan, second in command at the fire department, chased a bystander who was panning the jumpers with his video camera, demanding that he turn it off, bellowing, "Don't you have any human decency?" before dying himself when the building came down. In the most photographed and videotaped day in the history of the world, the images of people jumping were the only images that became, by consensus, taboo ....  Elsewhere, all over the world, people saw the human stream pour from the top of the North Tower, but here in the United States, we saw these images only until the networks turned them off, out of respect for the families of those so publicly dying.  The jumpers' experience, instead of being central to the horror,  became tangential to it, became a sideshow relegated to the underbelly of the Internet and best forgotten.

If the number provided by USA Today is accurate -- 200 suicides by jumping -- then between 7 and 8 percent of those who died in New York City on September 11, 2001, died by jumping out of the buildings.  If 200 is true for the North Tower, where 1344 were trapped,  it means that the ratio is more like one in six that made this choice.  


Eric Fischl, Tumbling Woman, 2001, Bronze, edition of 5
Eric Fischl, Tumbling Woman,  2001.
Bronze, 37x74x50 inches. Edition of 5.

The day after Tumbling Woman was exhibited in New York's Rockefeller Center, Andrea Peyser of the New York Post denounced it in a column titled "Shameful Art Attack," in which she argued that Fischl had no right to ambush grieving New Yorkers with the very distillation of their own sadness.  ... "I was trying to say something about the way we all feel," Fischl says, "but people thought I was trying to say something about the way they feel -- that I was trying to take away something only they possessed."

Fischl, well known for large figural artworks, sketched hired models rolling on the floor in preparation for his sculpture (they were literally tumbling women on an athletic tumbling mat).  He chose the subject in the hopes of returning focus from buildings coming down back to people -- the human loss.

Jerry Speyer, a trustee of the Museum of Modern Art who runs Rockefeller Center, ended the exhibition of Tumbling Woman after a week. "I pleaded with him not to do it," Fischl says. "I thought that if we could wait it out, other voices would pipe up and carry the day. He said, 'You don't understand. I'm getting bomb threats.' I said, 'People who just lost loved ones to terrorism are not going to bomb somebody.' He said, 'I can't take that chance.' "

This is domestic terrorism.  
Terrorism, like rats, like disease, travels with man.  It is a part of every civilization.  

A  PASTRY CHEF AS  FALLING MAN  An editor at the Toronto Globe and Mail assigned a reporter named Peter Cheney to discover the identity of the Falling Man.  Cheney at first despaired of his task... Then he applied himself, sending the digital photograph to a shop that clarified and enhanced it....the man was most likely not black but ... Latino. He wore a goatee. And the white shirt billowing from his black pants was not a shirt but ... a tunic,  the kind of jacket a restaurant worker wears. Windows on the World, the restaurant at the top of the North Tower, lost seventy-nine of its employees on September 11, as well as ninety-one of its patrons. Cheney .... walked through Times Square. It was after midnight, eight days after the attacks. The missing posters were still everywhere, but Cheney was able to focus on one that seemed to present itself to him -- a poster portraying a man who worked at Windows as a pastry chef, who was dressed in a white tunic, who wore a goatee, who was Latino. His name was Norberto Hernandez. He lived in Queens. Cheney took the enhanced print of the Richard Drew photograph to the family, in particular to Norberto Hernandez's brother Tino and sister Milagros. They said yes, that was Norberto. Milagros had watched footage of the people jumping on that terrible morning, before the television stations stopped showing it. She had seen one of the jumpers distinguished by the grace of his fall -- by his resemblance to an Olympic diver -- and surmised that he had to be her brother. Now she saw, and she knew.

BUT ARE WE SURE?  Seventy-nine people died on the morning of September 11 after going to work at Windows on the World. Another twenty-one died while in the employ of Forte Food, a catering service that fed the traders at Cantor Fitzgerald. Many of the dead were Latino, or light-skinned black men, or Indian, or Arab. Many had dark hair cut short. Many had mustaches and goatees. Indeed, to anyone trying to figure out the identity of the Falling Man, the few salient characteristics that can be discerned in the original series of photographs [there was more than one] raise as many possibilities as they exclude. There is, however, one fact that is decisive. Whoever the Falling Man may be, he was wearing a bright-orange shirt under his white top. It is the one inarguable fact that the tearing winds of the fall reveals.

Falling Man has also been identified -- mistakenly -- as Jonathan Briley.

The Daily Nation
Twin Towers jumpers that Americans will not talk about
By David James Smith
Posted  Saturday, September 10  2011
JIN: About a week after it was posted, the Nation Media Group removed Smith's article from the Daily Nation.
I had quoted the indented paragraphs below.  The full text has been saved by others, & you can read it here.  
I thank David James Smith for his factual honesty and for sensitive, sympathetic writing.  

Some have incorrectly identified Falling Man as Jonathan Briley, a 43-year-old African American who, like Norberto Hernandez,  worked at the Windows on the World restaurant.  Jonathan's intact body was returned to his family; the fact that the body was intact tells his sister Gwendolyn that it is a mis-identification.

Their religion leads Norberto Hernandez's wife and immediate family to believe suicide condemns a person to Hell and they cannot accept either the photo identification nor the idea that these were never suicides -- no one wanted to kill themselves, everyone was forced to escape pain in the only way possible.  Gwendolyn has her own pain and wants only to give others room for theirs.  She insists on nothing.  Who were we to judge how anyone would react in that inferno? Nobody should feel any shame, she says.  “They were falling into the arms of God, they really were.”

Tom Junod in Esquire reminds us that  Hernandez's wife insisted on not knowing. But  a mother who lost both her sons on September 11 had to know.   They worked together at Cantor Fitzgerald.  The bond trading company lost 658 of its 960 employees on 9/11, everyone who was at work that day in the North Tower.  . ... The mother called the photographer and asked him to enlarge and clarify the picture. Demanded that he do it. And then she knew, or knew as much as it was possible to know. Both of her sons were in the picture. One was standing in the window, almost brazenly. The other was sitting inside. She does not need to say what may have happened next.

"The thing I hold was that both of my sons were together," she says, her instantaneous tears lifting her voice an octave. "But I sometimes wonder how long they knew. They're puzzled, they're uncertain, they're scared -- but when did they know? When did the moment come when they lost hope? Maybe it came so quick...."

RICHARD DREW.  What kind of photographer does it take to do this work, to generously give time to the bereaved afterwards?   When he was twenty-one years old, Richard Drew  was standing right behind Bobby Kennedy when Bobby Kennedy was shot in the head. Drew's jacket was spattered with Kennedy's blood, but he jumped on a table and shot pictures of Kennedy's open and ebbing eyes, and then of Ethel Kennedy crouching over her husband and begging photographers -- begging him -- not to take pictures.

Although he has preserved the jacket patterned with Kennedy's blood, Richard Drew  has never not taken a picture,  never averted his eye. He works for the Associated Press. He is a journalist. It is not up to him to reject the images that fill his frame . . .


See MSNBC, July 2006

Richard Pecorella saw a photo by AP photographer Amy Sancetta, showing a group of people desperately peering from gaping holes high up in the tower, some trying to get out.

“I saw her,” Pecorella said. “She was wearing a blue bandanna, like she did at work to hold her hair back, and it was her shape. She had on a blue sweater and cream-colored pants that day.”

As Pecorella went over photos of "jumpers"  with photographer Richard Drew, Drew was almost apologetic — his instincts had just taken over, he said, he had just recorded what was happening.  Pecorella reassured him that, in fact, it gave him some closure to know that, at the end, Karen had made a choice. She had jumped; she did not, as he said, burn up and become toast.  “She chose how she should die. It’s not a religious thing with me. A lot of people have problems because they consider it as suicide, which means you go to hell, but I don’t consider it like that, I think it’s more complicated.”  Most families have recovered no more than a fragment of bone, identified through DNA.  "To me, the photo of her falling was like finding the body.  I thought it was something that would help me move on. I needed to know how she died."

Richard  met the woman he calls “the love of my life” on April 26, 1997, at a NASCAR race in Nazareth, Pa., while both were in the middle of bitter divorces. Karen Juday, an assembly line worker who lived in Elkhart, Ind., was visiting a brother and Pecorella was at his first NASCAR race, on a ticket a friend gave him to distract him911 WTC North Tower jumper - Falling Woman from his  troubles.  “It was instant magic,” he says of their first dinner that evening.

Six months later, Karen  had moved into Pecorella’s Brooklyn home and had taken a job with Cantor Fitzgerald. Each morning, they would drive to his office in downtown Brooklyn, then she’d take the subway to Manhattan.  “She loved it there. She’d say ’Wow, the planes fly right past the window!”’ he remembers.

They started planning a Las Vegas wedding for June 2002.

On Sept. 11, 2001, Pecorella was sitting at his office desk when the first hijacked plane hit the north tower. From his [Brooklyn] window, he watched in horror as the skyscraper disappeared in a mammoth cloud of smoke.“I knew she was up there.”  Co-workers struggled to restrain him as he rushed from his desk, screaming . . . .

... he drank himself into a stupor, “morning, noon and night,” but his employer held his job for him and he eventually returned to work — and to life ...

One day in the winter of 2002, he scattered Juday’s cremated remains — a single jaw bone found in the trade center ruins — from the the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge,  which connects Staten Island to Brooklyn — the first place in the city Karen had seen when they started their lives together.

Ten years later, on the 10th anniversary of 9/11 this month,
David James Smith's "Twin Towers jumpers that Americans will not talk about"

was removed from the Internet by The Daily Nation/Nation Media Group less than 10 days after it was posted, but is available here.

It is OK stop here and consider the rest of this another time.  You are in Part 3, Taking Charge.

911 New York Some of 1344 people trapped in WTC North Tower crowd at the windows  
Click to enlarge.  Photo: Jose Jimenez - Primera Hora / Getty Images.

Above: some of 1344 people trapped in the 110 story World Trade Center's North Tower
on or above the 93rd to 98th floors.
  911 WTC North Tower - seared by heat and suffocated by smoke, people were forced to jump, some in pairs

They jumped steadily, from all four sides of the North Tower,  from all floors above and around the impact.  They jumped from the offices of Marsh & McLennan, the insurance company; from the offices of Cantor Fitzgerald, the bond-trading company; from Windows on the World, the restaurant on the 106th and 107th floors.  For more than an hour and a half, they streamed from the building, one after another, consecutively, not en masse, ...

... there were reports that some tried parachuting, before the force of the wind  ripped the drapes, the tablecloths, the desperately gathered fabric, from their hands.  Skydiving velocity was 140 mph, a Category 4 hurricane.  If you could hold a vertical position, your 200 mph terminal velocity reached the highest wind speeds recorded.  Most people did not hold a sky-dive or a vertical position; they tumbled.

Before the aviation fuel fireball burned itself out, witnesses saw people groping their way out of black smoke and falling.  Did they not realize the wall was blown out?  

Later, people got out of the windows, 100 or more floors up, and began trying to climb up or down the outside of the building to imagined safety. ... In all four cases, they soon lost their grip and fell.

Eyewitnesses have described people hugging or holding hands as they fell in pairs.


911, New York City: NY Fire Department fire fighter sits head in hand on bench
Click to enlarge.  Photo: Matt Moyer - AP.
The story and images of 9/11 are very hard for anyone who loves someone to look at.
For fire fighters who save lives, the helplessness was hardest of all.   

9-11   20-11

I turn from tireless talk of heroes.
stand again with all who never made it.
Back again at the  answering machine.
Calls from the distant doomed.
The last call they will ever make.
It's illegal to use your phone on a flight,
and, boy, they sure were punished for it.

At 140 miles per hour, the lungs explode.
Puffs of pink.
For a hundred and two minutes
Mostly alone, but sometimes in pairs,
the dull thuds, the puffs of pink.
"Let's get out of here.
They'll kill you if you get hit by one."

J. I. Nelson
Sept 11, 2011


911 - An Attack by Political Extremists using Hijacked Airliners
Page 1: Tall Buildings
Page 2:  The Pile and the streets
Page 3: Taking Charge   -- you are here
Page 4:  The Pentagon, Pennsylvania & the Freedom Tower
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