I usually post chirpy things, but now and again a subject makes me so angry I find myself typing and typing until something emerges that feels important to me. You might not agree, but be warned, this isn’t chirpy.
Millions of us have seen the photos of the so-called ‘jumpers’ (I hate the casualness of the term) from the burning buildings on 9/11 – those poor souls who died, falling hundreds of floors to the ground. You can’t avoid seeing the images – the still horror – but I’m not writing this to tell you that – most of you know, saw or subsequently learnt about the terrible nature of those events. No, I’m writing because I couldn’t not. Because I read an article this morning in The Mail and it made my blood boil, “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 details how some people consider those who jumped/fell to their deaths, to have died a shameful death. The thing is, I could normally put it down to media-stir – believing that no real right-thinking people could think such things. But they do. I’ve seen it in other articles and on documentaries and programmes. The belief that those who died and were classed as ‘jumpers’ were somehow letting the side down, engaging in a shameful way to end their lives. The article continues, “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.”
To many, those ‘jumpers’, those people, can’t be easily pigeon-holed. To consider their final decisions (in the main) is pretty hard – it’s painful to consider their lack of viable choices trapped in such a situation. It’s easy to ignore or sideline them, or allow religion to file them shamefully away. Many don’t want to deal with the pain and confusion. But we have to, because to ignore them is to forget them, and they deserve better.
It made my blood boil because those people were already in a man-made Hell of unimaginable proportions and whether they chose to leap out of that, were confused and fell, or just couldn’t physically stand the heat or choking fumes, they deserve not just our sympathy but our respect. I wonder if feelings would be different if these lone falling figures were on fire, or visibly distressed? I can’t imagine the panic in those buildings, and I don’t really want to – because there but by the grace of whoever you consider Holy, go you or I. These people were not somehow letting the side down by not really trying to get home (I’ve heard that view expressed). They abandoned a place of fear, pain and destruction because they had no choice, or were in blind panic or shock.
To suggest or hint that their way of dying is somehow shameful, is offensive in the extreme. To imply that they’re not just as much victims as all those others caught up in the melee, is disgusting. There’s no glory to be had in situations like this – there’s no one-upmanship. Really, when it comes down to it, no-one dies in a more heroic fashion than another in such a revolting situation – regardless of whether you were the one who perished in a staircase, cowered in a corner, maintained a stiff upper lip, or descended to the ground while the buildings dissolved.
Our job, if we have one, on 9/11 is to remember every one of those who did not survive the mass atrocity. That was the day they all breathed their last and fell to earth, each and every single, struggling, gasping, frightened, heroic, weeping, human one. I pity you if you’re one of those trying to demean the death of another living, breathing, human being. Especially if you’re using religion to judge which deaths are more ‘acceptable’ than others. God forbid you ever have to make such a hellish choice.
Have some humanity. It is you who should be ashamed.