JESSICA GIANNONE, Opinions Editor
When debating about how I wanted to convey my thoughts on this unforgettable day, Sept. 11, an array of questions presented themselves at my doorstep. I asked myself, “How do I feel? What do I believe at this point? Have things changed significantly since the day of the attack? Has my interpretation of the tragedy changed over these long, yet quick, 10 years?”
Well, I did a little bit of investigating. As funny of an occurrence as can be, when looking for an old column pertaining to 9/11 I had written over a year ago (which you’ll see is included in this column), I actually (unwillingly) stumbled across something else; a poem I had written when I was 11 years old during the week of the dreadful attack:
The Strength Within
Everyone knows that life is unknown, but could you be safe in your own actual home?
We all know what happened and we all know why. Some people are up there; up there in the sky
With tears of sadness and hope of peace, we want innocent people to now be released
As we pray for the people who have suffered the stress, we hope for their chance of eternal rest
After all of the darkness we hope for light, so we’ll pray and pray for it every night
They destroyed our buildings and our people too, but nothing can destroy the peace between me and you
I had forgotten how intense the emotions embedded in my young mind came to be. Though, I seemed more certain of my beliefs at that age. The more recent words I expressed over a year ago weren’t so assertive. My interpretation of the tragic day in the following column left me less confident in the grace of others:
Surprise, wonder and curiosity were what I felt after reading “The Falling Man,” an article by journalist Tom Junod on the controversial picture of a man falling from a twin tower on Sept. 11, 2011.
Regardless of all the perspectives on the Falling Man, we can never know for certain whether he jumped intentionally, or if he was indeed falling uncontrollably in the face of death.
Junod touches upon different points in his piece. Although one constant belief was that the man, unlike all of the other “fallers” on Sept. 11, occupied a sense of preparation and relaxation. This idea alone is surprising.
The picture of the man Junod described depicts him to be almost perfectly vertical to the tower, aligned upside down to the building. He is described as appearing “unintimidated” by the fall, as if he were embracing his inevitable death. I am curious as to how anyone could be so fearless.
According to Junod, the picture seemed to depict a demonstration of rebellious body language, uncovering the terror in maintaining a sense of freedom while being face to face with the end of existence.
The impression Junod’s piece gives off eliminates the question of hesitancy in the eyes of the Falling Man. Although, we don’t actually see his face. What if he was terrified? Or he could have been in a state of mental absence due to shock, or pure denial.
Just because his body happened to be boldly positioned does not necessarily mean he purposely jumped. If only we could have a closer look at his expression.
His mind could have been exposing a number of feelings to his awareness. Some emotions that are often deeply buried inside you during a time of fear don’t always appear on the surface. And if that, one picture cannot serve as a guarantee of any proven personal experience.
When reading the piece, I couldn’t help but wonder if there were any other external factors effecting the man’s body placement and motion. He could have been in a reduced mental state from drugs for all we know. What physically appears to be bravery could simply be shock, or a high.
As I can easily believe the man was fully engaged in some sort of mental or emotional preparation and boldness for his death, I can just as easily believe the opposite.
You wouldn’t expect a man to fall so gracefully at an accelerating speed, soon to be reaching 150 mph toward hard pavement.
The idea that one man rebelling against his fate seems moving in itself. Although, it only makes sense to question whether this “immunity” to intimidation is completely true; whether he simply braced himself at the last minute.
There are so many other factors to consider other than the simple state of his body. It is nice that he was possibly embracing his time to go, but do we really want to believe that anyone desires to die, as some people suggest the man did, even if the end is inevitable?
So, was he helplessly falling or readily committing suicide? The world can never be absolutely sure.
What can I gather from all this? What can I write? After reflecting on the past and comparing those neglected times to the present, I assumed I could better understand how I feel at this moment. I embedded the idea of change and progress in my mind, thinking I could put my emotions into words once more, with the hope they would be different; more mature this time.
The truth is, nothing has changed. I still don’t know all the stories of those who were lost. I still can’t take away the pain (and curiosity; unanswered questions) of those who had to say goodbye to the people they cherished. It seems my passion has remained, and my questions only evolve more, rather than surface with solutions.
Reflecting on our troubles and confusions may bring us answers, but with answers only come more questions. The more we understand, the more there is to know.
One thing I can conclude, however, is that the memory of the event is as clear as day. Ten years have gone by and our recollections remain the same, whether they were attempted to be forgotten; neatly folded away in a silk blanket at the back of minds; or ongoing images aimed to be figured out.
Regardless if we can carry on in contentment or still question the time, we can at least satisfy ourselves with the notion that the worst is over. The strength doesn’t lie in figuring out our emotions, or knowing the experience of others. It comes from the place of knowing that we got through the time. It lies within.