On Tuesday, September 11th, 2001, I was working nights, so when my alarm went off at 14:00pm GMT that afternoon, I did not conceive of the very subtle
synchronous event that had occurred on my awakening. In fact, I wasn't to connect the synchronism until some weeks later during a quiet and
I realised that at the moment when I awoke, rose from my bed and looked out the window to see what the weather was like, some three and a half
thousand miles away in New York, almost at the same instance, Stanley Praimnath was looking out of his 81st floor office window of South Tower World
Trade Center, where he worked, and found himself uncomprehendingly staring at United Airlines Flight 175 as it was about to make impact with his
We were simply two disconnected people, unknowing of each other, and separated by thousands of miles, but about to be caught up in an event of
incredible ferocity and visceral reality: Stanley directly so, and I as a mute and helpless witness. As the synchronous moment passed unheeded by my
consciousness, I turned and made my way into the kitchen to make coffee. Stanley, however, dived under his office desk as Flight 175 obliterated all
sense of normality as it crashed into the tower at 463mph.
In the streets far below, pedestrians, already shocked and awed by United Airlines Flight 11's impact with the World Trade Center's North Tower some
17 minutes earlier, heard the growing shriek and roar of a demon from hell and watched dumbfound as South Tower exploded into heat and flame high
above their heads. Around the world, television stations relayed the event and seared the images into the memory of the sofa watchers. At that
instant, many watching realised the significance of what was happening...terrorism had once again come to America, but this time with a Jihadist's
By 14:10 I was sat watching the BBC's coverage as they replayed Flight 175's smash into South Tower, which itself was obscured by the burning North
Tower. You could see Flight 175 approach from the right, disappear behind North Tower and then a sudden huge ball of fire erupt. It just didn't seem
real. I watched and witnessed dispassionately as the incomprehensible enormity of the action being shown created a human disconnection, only to be
brought back to the visceral reality of it when the cameras zoomed in on the towers and the gaping black gashes where the planes had crashed into the
There were people hanging out the windows waving madly as hot black smoke belched out behind them. Suddenly, it hit home as I ran things through my
mind. This wasn't just a news bulletin, it was an ongoing and unfolding tragedy that was going to get worse. The BBC coverage only seemed to show and
maintain a respectful distance from the real tragedies playing out with every minute. The coverage was sanitized, and it I wasn't to know just how
sanitized it was until years later, when I was able to view 9/11 videos on the net. What the BBC coverage did was to obscure the destruction to
humanity, and to obfuscate the human element.
Twelve years on, and one month after the 12th anniversary, I found myself reviewing 9/11 videos, and for me the greatest poignancy that makes it all
so visceral is learning about the people on board the planes, and about the people trapped by the impacts of the planes, whom eventually found
themselves driven by hot acrid black smoke towards the windows, and once there, having to make a choice on not how to live, but how to die. Death on
the wing had made them recognize that their life had irredeemably come to its irrecoverable end.
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Looking at the images of the people at the windows waving frantically, hoping with all their might for some form of rescue, but accepting as the
minutes went by that rescue would never be their fate, and thus make a decision on the manner in which they would rendezvous with their death, brings
for a brief and all too sad moment a connection of human love between ghost and witness. They simply let go and stepped into free-fall rather than die
through agonizing immolation.
It wasn't a societal frowned-upon suicide that was taken by the people whom leapt to their deaths from the towers, it was a defiance at those that
brought death upon them. They did not allow the Jihadists to determine how they would die, only that they would. Hanging on to a window frame over a
thousand feet above the streets as smoke and flame scorched their way towards you, lessening the temporary safety of your perch with every minute, one
can only imagine the sheer terror being experienced? You will have already seen others plunge to their death, or maybe have overheard others in
conversation that to jump would be the cleaner and more painless option to take?
As one watches the people leap to their deaths, one can accept the decision they made as courageous and dignified, and honour and remember them in
that recognition. Even if they had not leapt away from the smoke and flame, the collapse of the buildings would have decided their fate. Knowing this
with hindsight makes it all very poignant for me, and makes the sheer insanity of the day somehow more intelligible, more humanely connected.
May they rest in peace.