So many in the media seemed to claim at the time that they were jumping out of "despair"; as if it were just an emotional response, a suicide choice; an act of will, that they could simply choose to do or not do.
That just seems like such an unfair judgment to me. I don't believe that most, if any, of those people "chose" to jump. I think SMOKE, HEAT and FLAMES simply FORCED them to their deaths by falling. You can't "choose" whether or not you want to stand close to burning jet fuel; you simply can't. If there is nowhere safe to move away to, you move anyway. Just the smoke alone, making it impossible for you to even breath... if you were suffocating, what would you do for air?
To call it jumping, like it was a choice, just seems wrong. When people went to work at the WTC that morning, they were not expecting to have to jump to their deaths. These poor souls did NOT choose this...
Last year at this time I posted a Tribute to Lorraine D. Antigua as part of the "2,996 project" to memorialize the victims of 9-11. While researching that, I read a lot about the situation of the employees at Lorraine's firm, Cantor Fitzgerald. That in turn lead to many articles about people who fell to their deaths.
It's an extremely volatile topic, that generates a wide range of reactions. It was only years after the attack occurred that many people could even begin to talk about it.
On one level I feel compelled to post on this topic because of my many years experience working in high-rise security and fire safety. Yet that experience also makes it extremely upsetting, because what the victims of the WTC attack faced before they died is... not an abstraction to me. So much of my job was about keeping people safe from those very things.
I'm going to post some links to articles that examine what happened, why people "jumped" or fell; how people have dealt with it; and why it matters.
Desperation forced a horrific decision
[...] "It took three or four to realize: They were people," says James Logozzo, who had gathered with co-workers in a Morgan Stanley boardroom on the 72nd floor of the south tower, just 120 feet away from the north tower. "Then this one woman fell."
She fell closer to the south tower, he recalls. Logozzo saw her face. She had dark hair and olive skin, a white blouse and black skirt. She fell with her back to the ground, flat, staring up.
"The look on her face was shock. She wasn't screaming. It was slow motion. When she hit, there was nothing left," Logozzo says.
USA TODAY estimates that at least 200 people jumped to their deaths that morning, far more than can be seen in the photographs taken that morning. Nearly all were from the north tower, which was hit first and collapsed last. Fewer than a dozen were from the south tower.
The jumping started shortly after the first jet hit at 8:46 a.m. People jumped continuously during the 102 minutes that the north tower stood. Two people jumped as the north tower began to fall at 10:28 a.m., witnesses said.
For those who jumped, the fall lasted 10 seconds. They struck the ground at just less than 150 miles per hour — not fast enough to cause unconsciousness while falling, but fast enough to ensure instant death on impact. People jumped from all four sides of the north tower. They jumped alone, in pairs and in groups.
Most came from the north tower's 101st to 105th floors, where the Cantor Fitzgerald bond firm had offices, and the 106th and 107th floors, where a conference was underway at the Windows on the World restaurant. Others leaped from the 93rd through 100th floor offices of Marsh & McLennan insurance company.
Intense smoke and heat, rather than flames, pushed people into this horrific choice. Flight 11 struck the 94th through 98th floors of the north tower, shooting heat and smoke up elevator shafts and stairways in the center of the building. Within minutes, it would have been very difficult to breathe. That drove people to the windows 1,100 to 1,300 feet above ground.
There were several reasons more people jumped from the north tower than from the south. The fire was more intense and compact in the north tower. The jet hit higher, so smoke was concentrated in 15 floors compared with 30 floors in the south tower, which was hit on the 78th through 84th floors. The north tower also stood longer: 102 minutes vs. 56 minutes. And twice as many people were trapped on the north tower's upper floors than in the south tower, where occupants had 161/2 minutes to evacuate before the second jet hit.
The New York medical examiner's office says it does not classify the people who fell to their deaths on Sept. 11 as "jumpers."
"A 'jumper' is somebody who goes to the office in the morning knowing that they will commit suicide," says Ellen Borakove, spokeswoman for the medical examiner's office. "These people were forced out by the smoke and flames or blown out." [...]
(bold emphasis mine) Breaking the windows so they could breath also unfortunately fed the flames of the fire. An unbelievably horrific situation.
THE 9/11 JUMPERS
[...] Jack Gentual, dean of student services at the New Jersey Institute of Technology got a call from his wife Alayne who worked in the tower and was trapped on the 97th floor. "She told me smoke was coming in the room, coming through the vents, her breath was laboured ... She said to me 'I'm scared' and she wasn't a person who got scared. She said that she loved me and to tell the boys she loved them." Alayne told her husband that she was going to try to escape to the lower floors and that she would call later.The article has a photo of Alayne Gentual.
But Gentual never heard from his wife again. Her body was found on the street in front of the building across from hers. He wonders if his wife was one of the many who decided to jump. "In some ways it might just be the last elements of control. To be out of the smoke and the heat, to be out in the air...it must have felt like flying."
For those who jumped, the fall lasted about ten seconds. The jumpers hit the ground at 240 kilometres a hour. It wasn't fast enough to cause unconsciousness while falling, but ensured instant death on impact.
Witnesses there that day say there was a constant stream of jumpers over the next hour and a half. [...]
Falling Man: the many faces of a 9/11 riddle
This is a story about the search to identify a falling man in one of the photos. People's reactions to this quest were varied and sometimes extreme. Even if you don't agree with the way some people reacted, it's not hard to understand. Everyone deals with the horror in their own way.
The Falling Man (Esquire Magazine)
[...] They jumped through windows already broken and then, later, through windows they broke themselves. They jumped to escape the smoke and the fire; they jumped when the ceilings fell and the floors collapsed; they jumped just to breathe once more before they died. They jumped continually, from all four sides of the building, and from all floors above and around the building's fatal wound. 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--the top. For more than an hour and a half, they streamed from the building, one after another, consecutively rather than en masse, as if each individual required the sight of another individual jumping before mustering the courage to jump himself or herself. One photograph, taken at a distance, shows people jumping in perfect sequence, like parachutists, forming an arc composed of three plummeting people, evenly spaced. Indeed, there were reports that some tried parachuting, before the force generated by their fall ripped the drapes, the tablecloths, the desperately gathered fabric, from their hands. They were all, obviously, very much alive on their way down, and their way down lasted an approximate count of ten seconds. They were all, obviously, not just killed when they landed but destroyed, in body though not, one prays, in soul. [...]This articles deals in part with the same identity search story as in the story above this one, but it also has other sections dealing with various reactions by different people. It's a very contentious issue for many people.
What it was like to jump from the World Trade Center
These are photos with a question that makes a lot of people angry. Reactions to it in the comments section are mixed; some feel that it is needed to "never forget", and to galvanize our resolve in the WOT. Others feel it's morbid and in bad taste.
I think it is ALL of those things. Murdering people in terrorist acts is morbid and in the worst possible bad taste. I'd much rather think about other things. But ignoring and not dealing with things is precisely what led up to 9-11. If we can't even look at what's happened, how are we going to stop it from happening again? If we continue living in a 9-10 world, where we just refuse to look at or deal with some things, what will come next? If we can't look at the ugly truth, the whole of it, how are we going to respond to it effectively?
Highrise Security and our post 9-11 reality
9-11 Firemen deaths and WTC radio problems
9/11 - Remembering The Jumpers (Video, 8 minutes)