9/11

by Nathan Hamm on 9/11/2004 · 3 comments

Since other people are much better at these kinds of things than I am, I offer 9/11 posts from others.

I highly reccomend Jodi’s post about hearing about the attack from Kyrgyzstan (she was one of those evacuated along with us from Uzbekistan). I probably would have done a similarly lengthy post, but I’ve told the story so many times. It happened about 6-7 pm in Uzbekistan and I saw everything on TV shortly after it happened. We spent the night watching CNN with Russian broadcasters speaking over the images and listening to VOA & the BBC wondering when the other shoe would drop for us. I also remember it being tremendously difficult to go to work and there being an awkwardness between Uzbeks and the PCVs. Words seemed incredibly useless — there was nothing to say to my students or friends and they knew there was little they could say to cheer us up.

Sheila points out a story from the NYT Falling Bodies, a 9/11 Image Etched in Pain. The one image that always sticks with me from 9/11 is one particular one of a man falling–the one referred to in this story from last year.

In the picture, he departs from this earth like an arrow. Although he has not chosen his fate, he appears to have, in his last instants of life, embraced it. If he were not falling, he might very well be flying. He appears relaxed, hurtling through the air. He appears comfortable in the grip of unimaginable motion. He does not appear intimidated by gravity’s divine suction or by what awaits him. His arms are by his side, only slightly outriggered. His left leg is bent at the knee, almost casually. His white shirt, or jacket, or frock, is billowing free of his black pants. His black high-tops are still on his feet. In all the other pictures, the people who did what he did—who jumped—appear to be struggling against horrific discrepancies of scale. They are made puny by the backdrop of the towers, which loom like colossi, and then by the event itself. Some of them are shirtless; their shoes fly off as they flail and fall; they look confused, as though trying to swim down the side of a mountain. The man in the picture, by contrast, is perfectly vertical, and so is in accord with the lines of the buildings behind him. He splits them, bisects them: Everything to the left of him in the picture is the North Tower; everything to the right, the South. Though oblivious to the geometric balance he has achieved, he is the essential element in the creation of a new flag, a banner composed entirely of steel bars shining in the sun. Some people who look at the picture see stoicism, willpower, a portrait of resignation; others see something else—something discordant and therefore terrible: freedom. There is something almost rebellious in the man’s posture, as though once faced with the inevitability of death, he decided to get on with it; as though he were a missile, a spear, bent on attaining his own end. He is, fifteen seconds past 9:41 a.m. EST, the moment the picture is taken, in the clutches of pure physics, accelerating at a rate of thirty-two feet per second squared. He will soon be traveling at upwards of 150 miles per hour, and he is upside down. In the picture, he is frozen; in his life outside the frame, he drops and keeps dropping until he disappears.

Still in the realm of emotion-invoking imagery, follow that image with this video.

Then move on to this post from Andrew Sullivan the week after 9/11. He was right.

Winds of Change has a collection of links worth reading as well.

Finally, let me add that I don’t think I ever truly understood the full weight of days of rememberance until after 9/11. On other days of rememberance such as Memorial Day, I try to pause to pay my respects but never grasped the emotional depth to those days that is felt by those who were around for the events commemorated. I get it now.


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This post was written by...

– author of 2991 posts on 17_PersonNotFound.

Nathan is the founder and Principal Analyst for Registan, which he launched in 2003. He was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Uzbekistan 2000-2001 and received his MA in Central Asian Studies from the University of Washington in 2007. Since 2007, he has worked full-time as an analyst, consulting with private and government clients on Central Asian affairs, specializing in how socio-cultural and political factors shape risks and opportunities and how organizations can adjust their strategic and operational plans to account for these variables. More information on Registan's services can be found here, and Nathan can be contacted via Twitter or email.

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{ 3 comments }

Nathan Hamm September 11, 2004 at 7:45 pm

?

Tatyana September 11, 2004 at 11:33 pm

My son was in the lobby of Stuyvesant H.S, along with his class waiting to be permitted to exit the building when he – and others in his 9th grade – saw people jumping to their end.

Tatyana September 13, 2004 at 7:53 pm

Huh?

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