20 Years Later the Falling Man of 9/11 Is More Relevant Than Ever
Only now it's the Falling Men
I don't usually touch political topics. But this touched me. And it still does. 20 years have passed since the Falling Man. Only to see it all over again.
I read the brilliant story "20 Years After 9/11, Here's What You Didn't Realize About the Man Who Fell From the World Trade Center" by Keith Dias. His entry for the Medium Writers Challenge has got to be the most outstanding, yet terrifying story I've read so far.
Even more terrifying to me, however, is the thought that it is happening again. And worse. Like the most vicious of vicious circles.
My naive mind can't comprehend the pictures. It couldn't in 2001. It can't now.
I vividly remember the day. 9/11. My teenage head was turning. Too young to cope with the situation, too old to not be impacted, too innocent to grasp the deadly magnitude.
During the terror of 9/11, the photo of the Falling Man made every headline it could. Not without controversy, no. But as a symbol for the people who "who chose to fall from the buildings, instead of staying inside" as Keith writes. The picture of the Falling Man by Richard Drew is 20 years old. Two decades later, it's happening again.
While the Falling Man in 2001 fell into "freedom" as Keith describes it, this time the women and men are falling in terror. Literally and figuratively.
In the country that was deemed the origin of this terror in 2001, a group called The Taliban did the unthinkable. 20 years later, they're back. They have never left. As the troops leave Afghanistan, it feels like defeat. It screams: Now they've won.
The Taliban is taking over Afghanistan… again. The longest war in the history of the USA has ended in disaster. For the Afghan people that are staying behind, it couldn't be more horrific and devastating.
In fear of this "new" terror, videos all around the web and social media show countless Afghan men and women desperately trying to hold onto the last US airplanes during lift-off. Some fall from the sky seconds later. I won't share these videos here.
These planes were supposed to take them to freedom, so they hoped, instead they were falling to hell. They weren't forced out by smoke or fire like the Falling Man on 9/11, fear of something worse must have gotten hold of them. They could have stayed on the ground. But they didn't. They saw their peers falling. Yet they tried again. And again.
It's a cruel coincidence that what "began" 20 years ago with the Falling Man in New York City is now "ending" with the Falling Men and Women in Kabul, Afghanistan.
A war on terror that terror has won, so it seems.
The photo of the Falling Man may have been "a photo of a living person, escaping to freedom" as Keith explains, because he found no other way out.
In mid-August of 2021, the people falling from the airplanes they desperately hold onto didn't escape to freedom. Their death wasn't imminent. So, we think. But it was. And for the ones who stayed on the ground, it still is.
"I see the Falling Man everywhere.", Keith writes.
I do too. And I see the thousands of people staying behind. Those who didn't fall in terror. Those who will see it. Those who will have to live through it. And those who will die because of it.
On the 20th anniversary of 9/11, we can't turn our heads away from the Falling Men of 2021. And the ones who are still there. On terror's ground.
Thank you, Keith, for your inspiring story!