• The impact of tragedy

    Posted by on September 12, 2017

    I wasn’t going to write anything about 9/11; it’s been talked about so much, I thought, what could I possibly say that hasn’t been covered.  Then I read an article I hadn’t before…which lead to another one…and another.  I realized how crucial it is to revisit these things from time to time.

    The first story was about trying to identify a Twin Towers jumper that a photographer who had been on a photo shoot for wedding models that morning took.  He captured a man, who looked perfectly calm, plunging headlong into his own death.  The quest for his identity opened up a festering sore with the family of the man that was identified; one “reporter” even went as far as to approach the man’s daughter at his funeral, thinking he was helping bring closure to the family.  Turns out it wasn’t even him, the family was ravaged by rage over the thought their father/husband didn’t fight to get out and it was finally overturned due to a another reporter doing better investigative work.  As a side, the story mentioned how the true number of jumpers was hidden by certain media outlets, like the New York Times, to lessen the blow with all the emotions that come from suicide.

    I don’t know how I’ve never seen it, but I then read about a man who made it down 81 floors to safety.  He was in the bathroom, making jokes about a new restroom sign, when the building lurched and all hell broke loose.  Gas lines started fires, rubble and debris fell, doors wedged shut from being shifted.  They kicked in the women’s room to help a co-worker get out, then began their descent.  Some jokes, some panic and the horrifying realization of seeing bodies begin to accumulate.  At the end, he stopped to help a man administer CPR and it nearly cost him his life.  The building began to collapse and by fortune, he wasn’t killed and wound up next a firefighter with an axe.  He escaped and described the sound of thousands of lives being extinguished at once.  His eyes swelled shut as over 140 shards of fiberglass hit them during the collapse.  He went on the describe a strange residue he kept finding in his ears over the next few weeks and was sure it was at least in some part, the obliterated bodies of those who were killed.

    I read about first responders who were killed, one firefighter by a falling jumper even, of all things.  Stories everywhere about updates on families – kids who lost parents of all ages when it happened, from infants that would never meet their fathers or mothers, school age kids who now woke up with one parent where there were two the day before.  I read about Congress playing games with medical funding; tying the funds into other pork bills, then acting outraged when some voted against it (or politicians holding it up while people suffered – depending on your perspective).  Lastly, I read about the crushing realities afterwards – we built the Empire State Building in one year and some change, it took until this year to rebuild a church destroyed that day.  Thanks to human greed, politics and infighting, it took over a decade to rebuild the site again with the Freedom Tower.

    Even now, with hurricanes pounding the shores across the southern US, there are alternately looters on one hand and on the other, people raising money and having food drives across the country.  I saw a story about a woman that stabbed her one year daughter to death two days after reading about a cop that drowned in Harvey’s flood waters trying to help others.  I took in an article about a dad that was shot in a carjacking while his two year old daughter was in the backseat not long after reading the local paper’s insert about local heroes, including a girl who had organized tens of thousands of books to be given to the less fortunate and a suicide hotline volunteer who had saved dozens of lives.

    I could try and make some salient point; tie in some enlightened wisdom and then pat myself on the back for a thought well constructed, but the last week’s worth of information for me was dark and hopeful; depressing and uplifting on a roller coaster that is the human experience.  Great suffering caused by nature and humankind and then rebuilding of spirit as life moves on, healing but always scarred.  I learned we should revisit these things; we should make ourselves read these stories.  It is right and important we know of tragedy so we can appreciate life and the strength of the mortal soul and to recognize the depths of evil that the same species has the capacity for.  Finally, to remember that some aren’t able to click another article or read about incredible horror and then move on from these things.  Hopefully that is something I don’t forget anytime soon.

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