Sunday, September 11, 2011

I’m not cut out for blogging breaks.  I’m trying, and I certainly didn’t plan on posting on 9/11, but sheer asininity keeps finding me.  This time it is a Daily Mail article using not just 9/11, but vivid horror of the jumpers of 9/11 to perpetuate the stereotype of Americans as backward religious or patriotic nuts.  
The author baldly suggests that Americans are “airbrushing” the jumpers from history because we religious nuts think suicide is a sin, or cowardice.  From original posting, the 10th, to now, the evening of the 10th, I suspect the editors at the Daily Mail thought the theory a bit of a reach because they reposted the article under a different title and with a new comment thread.   Regardless, the text is still little more than the author’s suggestion that Americans think the jumpers committed suicide and think less of them for it.   My comments, as usual, in red.
The 9/11 victims America wants to forget: The 200 jumpers who flung themselves from the Twin Towers who have been 'airbrushed from history'’‘It looked like they were blinded by smoke... they just walked to the edge and fell out.’ Victims who plummeted from Twin Towers [The title change backs away from the author’s premise that the jumpers are airbrushed from history.  The original title is more true to the article in that it leads the reader to question why the jumpers are airbrushed, why we want to forget them, the author’s answer to which is the premise of the article: because religious Americans believe the jumpers committed suicide, or the patriotic think they were cowardly.]
Almost all of them jumped alone, although eyewitnesses talked of a couple who held hands as they fell.
One woman, in a final act of modesty, appeared to be holding down her skirt. Others tried to make parachutes out of curtains or tablecloths, only to have them wrenched from their grip by the force of their descent.
The fall was said to take about ten seconds. It would vary according to the body position and how long it took to reach terminal velocity — around 125mph in most cases, but if someone fell head down with their body straight, as if in a dive, it could be 200mph.
Horror: A person falls to their death after jumping from the north tower following the audacious terror strike which shocked the world a decade ago
When they hit the pavement, their bodies were not so much broken as obliterated.
Nothing more graphically spells out the horror of the 9/11 attacks on the Twin Towers than the grainy pictures of those poor souls frozen in mid-air as they fell to their deaths, tumbling in all manner of positions, after choosing to escape the suffocating smoke and dust, the flames and the steel-bending heat in the highest floors of the World Trade Centre.
And yet, tragically, they are in many ways the forgotten victims of September 11. [They are forgotten?  They are unknown, but not forgotten.  Never forgotten.  The author’s first mistake is conflating forgotten and unknown.] Even now, nobody knows for certain who they were or exactly how many they numbered. Perhaps worst of all, surprisingly few even want to know. [Why is this worst of all?  Why is it surprising that few want to know?  Do family members really want to know that their loved one knew death was coming?  Would it be to the rest of the public’s credit to want names and details?] 
From the earliest days after the 9/11 attacks, the American establishment and the media showed an overwhelming reluctance to dwell on those who jumped or fell from the Twin Towers. 
If this was simply down to qualms at being considered intrusive or voyeuristic when individuals in the most appalling circumstances chose in desperation to die very publicly, it would be understandable. [There is a but coming.]
But there are other, more complicated, reasons. [Of course there are. The subject is Americans.  The simple and obvious reasons for reluctance to dwell can’t possibly be the whole story.] In the aftermath of this attack on America’s sovereign territory — a period of intense patriotism — some considered that to choose to die rather than be killed showed a lack of courage.  [I assume that the author will back up this bold assertion with some shred of evidence.  To save the reader the suspense, he doesn’t.  This bald assertion, complete with the offset m-dash signal to Brits that something sinister or tasteless, i.e., patriotism, is involved, is it.]
And in this country of intense religious fervour, many believe that to be a ‘jumper’ was to choose suicide rather than accept the fate of God — and suicide in whatever circumstances is considered shameful or, indeed, a sin that will send you to Hell.  [Not only does he not back up the cowardiace assertion, but also he adds the sinful assertion. He won’t back that one up either.  No statements from religious leaders, no quotes from family--not even a Joe Mainstreet or somebody from Westboro.   His “other, more complicated, reasons” for reluctance to talk about the jumpers: the patriots think it was cowardly and the devout think it a sin.  Does any of the following evidence back up these assertions?]
At the office of the New York chief medical examiner, a spokesman said this week that they did not consider these people ‘jumpers’. She insisted they fell from the 1,350ft tall, 110-floor skyscrapers, for jumping would imply suicide.
‘Jumping indicates a choice, and these people did not have that choice,’ she said. ‘That is why the deaths were ruled homicide, because the actions of other people caused them to die. The force of explosion and the fire behind them forced them out of the windows.’  [A perfectly reasonable and widely held belief that the jumpers did not commit suicide.  Whether the devout think suicide a sin or patriots think it cowardice is not relevant.]
Terror: An estimated 200 people jumped to their deaths to avoid being killed by the fires on 9/11
For those who have discovered that their loved ones may have been among the estimated 200 or more who plunged to their deaths, this uncomfortable official reticence can only compound the suffering they have already endured. [Another bald assertion, and at odds with his premises.  If the devout and patriots are uncomfortable with the thought of suicide, why would an official finding that the jumpers did not commit suicide compound their suffering?  Wouldn’t it relieve a tiny fraction of it?]
University administrator Jack Gentul cannot possibly imagine his late wife’s torment before she died. Alayne Gentul, mother of two and the 44-year-old vice president of an investment company, was in the South Tower and had gone up to the 97th floor to help evacuate staff after the other tower was hit. In her final moments, she rang Jack to say in labouring breaths that smoke was coming into her room through vents.
‘She said “I’m scared”,’ he tells me quietly. ‘She wasn’t a person who got scared, and I said, “Honey, it’ll be all right, it’ll be all right, you’ll get down”.’
Alayne Gentul’s remains were found in the street outside the building across from the tower — sufficiently far from the rubble to suggest she had jumped. Mr Gentul, who has since remarried, is not convinced she took that option but is clearly irked that some believe jumping was some sort of cop-out.  [“[C]learly irked that some believe”--who are the some?  He provides no quote above or below from someone stating that jumping was a cop-out. The only “some” seems to be the author.   I wonder, did he call Mr. Gentul and suggest that “some” believe jumping was a cop-out so he could get a story up for the anniversary?]
‘She was a very practical person who would have done whatever she could to survive,’ he explains in a quiet voice. ‘But how can anyone know what one would do in a situation like that, having to choose how you go from this Earth?’
The notion that she jumped is, indeed, consoling to Mr Gentul in some ways, in that she exercised an element of control over her death. [So Mr. Gentul is neither one of the patriots nor the devoted who make up the other, more complicated, reasons for reluctance to discuss the jumpers.]
‘Jumping is something you can choose to do,’ he says. ‘To be out of the smoke and the heat, to be out in the air, it must have felt like flying.’
On the clear, blue morning of 9/11, investment banker Richard Pecarello watched from his office on the other side of the river as the second plane hit. His fiancée Karen Juday was working as an administrator at bond traders Cantor Fitzgerald in the North Tower.
He tried to phone her but there was no answer, and for days and weeks after he looked at photographs on the internet and wondered if she had jumped. She was vain about her face and used anti-wrinkle cream, and he was certain she would have jumped rather than face the flames. [And the author thinks Americans dishonor the jumpers’ memories?]
Mr Pecarello, 59, made contact with Associated Press photographer Richard Drew, who had captured images of many of the jumpers, and asked to look through his archives. He saw a couple of photographs of a woman in cream trousers and blue top which he is convinced were of Karen.
‘There was one of her standing in a window with flames behind her and one of her falling from the building,’ Mr Pecarello says. ‘It made me feel she didn’t suffer and that she chose death on her terms rather than letting them burn her up.’ [So Mr. Pecarello is also neither one of the patriots nor the devoted who make up the other, more complicated, reasons for reluctance to discuss the jumpers.]
He has no time for suggestions that she took the easy way out. [Once again, I must ask, exactly who is doing the suggesting?  Nobody but the author of this lousy example of journalism.] ‘The people who died that day weren’t soldiers. They were everyday people — parents and housewives and brothers and sisters and children,’ he says in his gruff Brooklyn accent.
Horror: The U.S. authorities have shown no interest in discovering who decided to jump rather than wait to be killed by the fire that ripped through the World Trade Center
When he tried to show the photos to Karen’s staunchly Protestant family back in Indiana, they didn’t want to know. They go by the official version, that nobody jumped. [I can think of many reasons someone might not want to know such horrors of a loved ones last moments, much less see pictures of it, reasons that have nothing to do with being staunchly anything.  I don't know why this popped into my head, but I recall that Terri Irwin never watched the footage of her husband getting speared by the sting ray.  I wonder if Daniel Pearl's wife watched the footage of his murder.  Such is the stuff of nightmares. Furthermore, even the passengers on Flight 93, they had a chance to fight back, which they took.  No such options existed for the jumpers.  Their only available act of defiance of evil was to name the terms of their immanent deaths. That their families might just not want to think about that kind of helplessness should be understandable.]
In fact, nobody liked talking about the jumpers. [Of course they didn’t! What did the author expect?  That he would call up the families and ask them about the jumpers and that they would want to talk about this to a reporter?  Was he contacting them to talk about their loved ones and then suggesting that "some" think them cowards or damned hoping to get juicy quotes for his anniversary piece? Perhaps they just didn’t want to give fodder to an obvious foreign hit piece about American culture using their personal tales of horror.]
Unofficial estimates put the number of jumpers at around 200, but it is impossible to say for certain because their bodies were indistinguishable from others after the collapse of the Towers. The official account is that nearly all 2,753 victims in the Twin Towers attack officially died from ‘blunt impact’ injuries.
Ten years on, more than 1,000 have yet to be identified from remains. They were vaporised in the inferno.
After the planes hit, raging fires pushed the temperatures to 1,000c, sufficient to weaken the skyscrapers’ steel frames.
The metal conducted the heat through the building at a terrifying speed and it reached the upper floors long before the flames did.
There were reports of people having to stand on desks because the floor became so hot.
Fire experts say people rarely throw themselves out of burning high-rises until they have exhausted every other option. Indeed, as survivors desperate for fresh, cool air crowded at the windows smashed open by the force of the planes’ impact, it is possible some of the ‘jumpers’ were actually pushed out in the crush.
The only research that comes close to being an official account is buried deep in an appendix of the huge report into why the towers collapsed, conducted by the National Institute for Standards and Technology.
Grim: 2,753 died from 'blunt impact injuries' on 9/11 and it is thought that around 200 people jumped to their deaths. They would have fallen for around 10 seconds
As part of its research into where the fire was at its most intense, NIST analysed camera footage and still photographs, and counted 104 jumpers, often recording the floor and exact window from which they left.
All but three leapt from the first building to be hit — the North Tower. The second plane struck the South Tower 16 minutes later but it collapsed first, giving occupants less time to react.
The first jumper is recorded plunging from the North Tower’s 149th window of the 93rd floor on the north face of the building at 8.51am, just over four minutes after it was hit by the first hijacked Boeing 757 between the 93rd and 99th floors.
Sometimes the fallers were separated by an interval of just a second. At one point nine people fell in six seconds from five adjacent windows; at another, 13 people fell in two minutes. Twenty minutes after the building was struck, two people fell simultaneously from the same window on the 95th floor.
At least four jumpers tried to climb to other windows for safety then lost their grip. One person climbed from the 93rd floor to the 92nd, clinging to the window’s edge before falling just one second after someone else plumetted from the same window — number 215 on the east face of the tower.
The early jumpers came from the crash zone where the plane entered the building — the offices of the insurance brokers Marsh & McLennan.
The last jumper fell just as the North Tower collapsed 102 minutes after the building had been hit. Photographer Richard Drew says he has a picture of this person clinging to some debris while falling.
What drove some to jump and others to remain? Those who were in the South Tower, just 120ft away, at the time — and managed to escape — had the clearest view and may provide the best insight.
Kelly Reyher watched from the South Tower’s 78th floor as people started to fall out of ‘the hole’ the aircraft had ripped in the North Tower. To him, they looked ‘completely confused’ rather than consciously deciding to end it all.
‘It looked like they were blinded by smoke and couldn’t breathe because their hands were over their faces,’ he says. ‘They would just walk to the edge where the jagged floor was and just fall out.’ [This detail became the new title of the article when the DM removed the “airbrushing” suggestion from the title.]
Charred remains: A huge investigation was launched following the terror tragedy - but no one has ever investigated at Ground Zero who may have jumped
Six floors below Mr Reyher, James Logozzo watched with stunned colleagues from the Morgan Stanley boardroom. He recalled that it took three or four jumpers to flash past him before he realised they were people. Then a woman fell, lying flat on her back and staring upwards. ‘The look on her face was shock. She wasn’t screaming,’ he recalled. ‘It was slow motion. After she hit the ground, there was nothing left.’
For those down below, the bodies landed with sickening, almost explosive thuds. Many said it was raining bodies.
One fireman, Danny Suhr, was killed as he made his way to the South Tower after a jumper landed on him, ‘coming out of the sky like a torpedo’ and breaking his neck. Compounding the tragedy, the priest who gave him the last rites was later killed by falling debris.
When she learnt how Danny died, his childhood sweetheart Nancy thought: how horrendous for that poor person who had to choose to jump; at least Danny did not have to make that choice. At least she had a body, for Danny’s colleagues took him to hospital after he was hit.
It was a decision that saved their lives — they would otherwise have been in the tower when it collapsed.
Firefighter Maureen McArdle-Schulman says she felt like she was intruding on a sacrament as the bodies fell. She adds: ‘They were choosing to die and I was watching them and shouldn’t have been. So me and another guy turned away and looked at a wall and we could still hear them hit.’
Bill Feehan, the deputy chief of the fire department, screamed at a man filming jumpers with a video camera: ‘Don’t you have any human decency?’
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 realising that nobody was listening — the system had long since been destroyed.  [Horrific details, all, but nowhere in that summary of the jumper evidence and witness testimony was anything about cowardice or sin, or even airbrushing, though the author tried to shore up that assertion with the comment about a ‘deeply buried appendix’--to a public report.]
Images of the falling bodies disturbed and appalled all who saw them. On the first anniversary of the tragedy, an exhibition showing a work called Tumbling Woman, a bronze sculpture by artist Eric  Fischl, lasted just a week in New York’s Rockefeller Centre before it was closed following protests and even bomb threats. [The author wants the reader to use his assertions of cowardice and sin and assume that the protests and bomb threats were related, without providing any actual evidence.  It sounds far more complicated than he suggests.  The Tumbling Woman reminds me of the 9/11 play that did so well in London but bombed in NYC and the a UK paper’s piece on uptight Americans that failed to mention the falling confetti at the end of the play.]
Human tragedy: Someone leaps from the burning World Trade Center on 9/11. It is thought that jumpers would have fallen for around 10 seconds
But one picture has become an iconic image. When a man fell at 9.41am from near the top of the North Tower, Richard Drew caught a dozen frames of his descent, including one in which he is diving vertically, arms by his sides and left leg bent at the knee. The image, all the more horrific for its desolate stillness, appeared the next day in newspapers around the world.
Dubbed the Falling Man, it prompted the media to hunt for the man’s identity. None of those who jumped from the towers has ever been officially identified and, tellingly, nobody rushed to claim Falling Man as their own. [“Tellingly”, tell me, what does the lack of rush to claim the falling man tell?  Once again, the author wants the reader to recall all the unsubstantiated assertions of cowardice and sin and assume that that is what the picture tells.]
Dark-skinned, goatee-bearded, wearing an orange T-shirt under a white shirt , he was first thought to be Norberto Hernandez, a pastry chef at the restaurant Windows on the World, on the top floors of the North Tower. His deeply religious family angrily rejected the notion, insisting that for him to have jumped would have amounted to a betrayal. [A betrayal--his word it seems, not the family's-- of what?  From the previous bald assertions and the “deeply religious” detail, I suspect that the author again wants the reader to assume, without him providing actual facts, the betrayal is of religious values.]
‘He was trying to come home to us and he knew he wasn’t going to make it by jumping out a window,’ his daughter Catherine says. [So not a betrayal of religion, but of family.  Is it so strange that the family wants to believe he fought to the last to get back to them? Regardless this fact supports neither the patriots think cowards nor devout think sinners premises.]
Grim: United Airlines Flight 175 collides into the south tower of the World Trade Center
Since then, the hunt for the Falling Man has moved on to another of the restaurant’s staff, Jonathan Briley, a 43-year-old sound engineer. The reaction of his deeply religious family has highlighted the deep moral complexities that suicide — whatever the circumstances — poses in a country where so many believe it is a sin, unforgivable by God. [If so many believe it, you think he could have gotten at least one quote in support.]
[So the reaction of this deeply religious family that supposedly highlight the deep moral complexities of suicide:] Some of Mr Briley’s family have never believed he jumped, [Ok.  There are many possible reasons for that, many of which have nothing to do with religion] and say they were vindicated after the authorities found his largely intact body.
‘I had no idea it would give me the peace years later to know that,’ says his sister Gwendolyn. ‘If he had fallen from the 110th floor to the ground we wouldn’t have had that.’ [What is “that”?  The author has left it undefined because he wants the reader to associate “that” with ‘didn’t commit suicide’ but based on context “that” is far more likely to be the finding of his body, the physical remains that the family could bury.  Regardless, again the author has no quote about sin or cowardice.]
Investment banker Richard Pecarello, 59, who tracked down that picture of his fiancee as she fell, also found peace. But for him it was in knowing that his fiancée did choose to jump. [Again, nothing about sin or cowardice, the opposite in fact.] Most families have recovered no more than a fragment of bone, identified through DNA, of their loved ones, Mr Pecarello points out.
‘To me, the photo of her falling was like finding the body,’ he says. ‘I thought it was something that would help me move on. I needed to know how she died.’
When a 9/11 Memorial Museum opens at Ground Zero next year, it will have a small display dedicated to the jumpers, but reflecting the intense feelings of unease the subject has provoked, it will be tucked away in an alcove, on the grounds that the images are considered too private and too distressing.
It seems a harsh fate [Why a harsh fate?  Was it worse than the jumping?    Does he assume that their souls long for fame?  Should we park Tumbling Woman at the front door and have video footage of the jumpers playing on a loop in the lobby?  If an alcove is too hidden, what does the author suggest is appropriate?] for those agonised mortals who faced the naked terror of that ten-second plunge to certain death. For the jumpers saved lives even as they were losing theirs.
In testimony after testimony, survivors of the South Tower say they only realised they had to ignore the official safety all-clear and get out fast when they saw those terrible shapes tumbling past their windows.
He had a theory and is making the facts fit, easy to do when writing for an audience that assumes the worst of Americans, witness the comments.  They see what they want to see and find what they are looking for.  The common refrain among foreigners is that America squandered the goodwill from 9/11, but alas, we cannot squander what we never had.


Alex said...

On the plus side, this is appearing in the Mail, and (most) everyone will be aware of their raging anti-everything agenda from the outset.

edgeofthesandbox said...

Wow! This is worse than Krugman. Just sick.

AHLondon said...

Alex, for Brits maybe. Regardless, if they are going to go for the anti-whatever, they should still use actual facts rather than straw men.

Sandbox, I didn't read Krugman until later. How do these men sleep at night? I couldn't and I had only read their drivel.

From FB:
Megs wrote: "This author is "just a bi g knob-head with no knob." Personally, I think that no one tried to delve into the matter because the situation was traumatic for the nation enough without having to dwell on the hellish circumstances that would prompt a person to make this choice. BTW, I know that the RCC would not consider this kind of death a sin and I suspect that only a very small minority of people would consider it a sin, so the author's entire premise is based on ignorance of Christian teachings anyway."

Megs, I thought about pointing that excellent fact out but thought I had gone on too long and that regardless of church views on suicide, no one, not the city, the commenters, or anyone I've ever heard, thinks the jumpers actually committed suicide.

Anonymous said...

Don't assume the Daily Mail article represents the sentiment of the United Kingdom. Fire stations throughout the UK were on parade and observed silence in deference to the 9/11 tragedy. Our Prime Minister also paid tribute.
Brits travelled from the UK to NYC so that they could pay their respects. What happened in NYC on 9/11 is not taken lightly by us Brits. We experienced random acts of toerrorism on our streets all the way through the 70s, 80s and part of the 90s due to the IRA. Train bombs, garbage can bombs, department store bombs.. the list is endless as is the list of unnecessary deaths. So we know what it means to have innocent citizens killed by enemies that fail to make themselves known.

Also, my American cousins, do not make the mistake of measuring UK press by the standards of your own press. They are nothing alike. UK newspapers are largely (except for a handful of broadsheets) on a par with the National Enquirer and write an article more for shock value than and less for thoroughness and accuracy.