Today, 15 years ago, a 32 year old man died in his office at the investment bank Cantor Fitzgerald. These words, written on September 14th 2001, are dedicated to him.
(Preface: When 9/11 happened I’d lived in NY for five years in pursuit of my career as a journalist. A European magazine asked me to write a column of my impressions of that day. My thoughts centered around one man, who many of my friends knew. I am posting the text again now, 15 years later, to honor this man. And to remind myself, to CONSCIOUSLY choose – every single day – to love, to express gratitude, to play full-out and to make a difference in somebody else’s life.)
Jimmy, is this true?
For five years, the sight of the World Trade Center has calmed my soul. Ever since I arrived in your city a stranger, the Twin Towers were my refuge when the cruelty of the city demanded its toll. For five years I watched the towers from my apartment and appreciated the certainty that there is one constant in my life. That there is something that I can rely on. Today, there is smoke and nothing more than the phantom imprint of towers in my mind.
I am crying as I write these lines. We all cry, some loud, some silently, all stunned. Many of my friends ran for their lives that morning, almost all came out. It were (was?) the people of my world, my generation, who ran to survive. Chris, 27, escaped from Two World Trade Center; Jason, 32, fled from the New York Stock Exchange; Lauren, 35, and Mark, 29 raced from the Trinity Tower; Gregory, 30, no longer knows where he was when the unspeakable happened. All were running and are therefore alive.
Jimmy, I know, you would have run too. 32 years of age and built like an athlete, a man full of strength and endurance. You embodied what we associate in our imagination with Wall Street: Manly, handsome, powerful, raw, driven, lonely and so successful in your world that you could buy yourself whatever you desired. You would have run. You would have saved yourself. But you could not leave. There was no escape for you.
The first plane drilled itself in the floors below yours. The tower literally swallowed the Boeing and absorbed the explosion. Death exploded like fireworks underneath you, merciful only to those who were in the center of the inferno. Why were you not allowed to die quickly, Jimmy?
Your mother called. She could barely speak. “A plane flew into your building,” she said. “I know,” you answered. Then the line went dead. Did you ever think you’d die one day? What did you feel when you realized you will die? Today. Soon. Does it still hurt Jimmy?
Jimmy, I know you could smell death, feel the heat, hear the cries of the people around you. I still want to cover your ears and protect your eyes. Can I take away your fear? Can you drown out my despair? Can this pain heal?
You were caught. You were doomed to take the final steps of your life with full consciousness. What does death look like Jimmy? My mind goes there over and over. How does it feel when your feet burn because the floor starts to melt? Did you jump out of the window, like so many others? 92 floors are so damn high. How long until impact Jimmy? Darling?
Your picture hangs on walls, doorways and trees in all of Manhattan. “Missing” is written underneath and the phone number of your family. I saw you last Sunday, spoke with you. We will all continue to talk with you. You’re amongst us, belong to us. Even if you’re maybe in a better place by now. “The souls of the dead do not want to return to earth”, said Archbishop Edward Egan during the memorial service, “They are in a much better place now.”
Jimmy, is this true?