I recently watched a documentary about the events of 9-11 which looked at a group of people you never hear talked about any more. I remember them because these people did get mentioned in some early live broadcasts as that terrible day’s events were begining to un-fold. However, in the hours and days that followed they were mentioned less and less. And now, over five years on, they are almost never mentioned at all. They seem to have been wiped from our collective memories of that day and to mention them has almost become a taboo, particularly within America. I am talking about ‘the jumpers’, those people who were trapped above the impact zone of both towers with no hope what-so-ever of escape who appear to have taken their destiny into their own hands, and jumped. The documentary was called “The Falling Man” or something like that, and it was all about a picture of one of these people snapped by a photographer which was given that caption. That one picture came to represent all those who appear to have jumped. The falling man became their icon.

I was going to post on this issue the day I watched the documentary because it affected me deeply, but I didn’t get a chance to collect my thoughts then. Ultimately, the biggest questions the documentary raised were why these people have been written out of 9-11 history, and what we would do if we found ourselves in their desperate situation. Some relatives of victims couldn’t face the thought that their relatives could have jumped. Others took great solace from it. There was one old man in particular who got me thinking. He described how his wife had called to say she loved him, said her good byes, and then most probably took the initiative and jumped. He thought how great it must have felt for her to be free of the hell that was the top of those towers and to get to die out in the fresh air. He thought it must have been such a relief and was happy that her suffering was shorter than it could have been. He preferred the though of a quick death outside to a long protracted death inside choking on the fumes and suffocating to death.

This got me thinking – what would I do? How would I feel if I were to be the one who had received that call? I’m still not completely sure, and I hope I never have to make that decision. But the thoughts of taking back even the tiniest bit of control over my destiny in a situation where I would be totally robbed of it sounds appealing. If you know you have to die, surely it’s OK to do it on your terms? I think it probably is. Does that make these people brave or cowards? Some clearly think they are the cowards of the day. That may be why they have been written out in favour of much more heroic images like the flag on the make-shift flag pole, and the valiant rescue workers. Yes, the firemen and the police men and all those who helped were real heroes. But in my view, they were not the only brave people on the day. I think the jumpers were too. And I respect them for having the guts to make the best of a horrendous situation and to end it on their terms, to take back that last bit of initiative. To put their affairs in order. Tell their loved ones what they desperately need to have confirmed to them, and then to just end the hell.

I know that many people will read this and totally disagree with me. That’s fine. This is a very divisive issue which is muddied a lot by religious views on suicide. If you’re wondering what sparked this post today, it was two things. A statement on the Mikado bulletin boards that suicide is always wrong, and stumbling across a recently released video from that fateful day that briefly and very distantly shows the jumpers. I would not dream of forcing anyone to watch something as unsettling as that so I have not embedded the video in this post. Should anyone want to watch it it can be found here.