The Rittenhouse Review

A Philadelphia Journal of Politics, Finance, Ethics, and Culture

Saturday, September 11, 2004  

A Difficult Topic for Today

I was living in New York on September 11, 2001, and that morning and early afternoong, while standing on Sixth Avenue in the city’s Chelsea neighborhood, I saw much more than I would have liked.

I was too far away to see those who jumped from the Twin Towers’ upper levels, but as a learned through my brother’s brother-in-law, a firefighter brought in from Upstate New York, and another man who was on the scene, there were more jumpers than people initially thought or were led to believe.

In “Falling Bodies, a 9/11 Image Etched in Pain” by Kevin Flynn and Jim Dwyer (the New York Times, September 10), the reporters ask, “How many people jumped from the upper floors of the World Trade Center on Sept. 11?”

I’ve always wondered the answer to this question, in no small part because New York firefighter Daniel Suhr, mentioned in my memoriam post below, was hit and killed by a jumper in the early aftermath of the tragedy.

Unfortunately, but not unexpectedly, the number of jumpers, according to Flynn and Dwyer, remains unknown. They write:

Some researchers say more than 200 people most likely fell or jumped to their death. Others say the number is half that, or fewer. None have been officially identified.

Without knowing the physiology associated with death by jumping, particularly from so high, I don’t know that I would have made the same decision when faced with near certain death. Personally, I think I would have gone with intentional smoke inhalation. I hope I never -- I hope no one ever -- has to make that choice.

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