Shortly after 9/11, a photograph was published: The Falling Man. The man in the photo looks like he is flying: knee bent, vertical with purpose, an arrow against the Twin Towers, a study in verticals, a Superman.
Except, photos lie. They tell the story of a single moment removed from the context of the whole. The man in the photo jumped out a window. The sequence of photos shows not a Superman but a tumbling, falling, desperate man. And even the word desperate is a personal connotation—a descriptive to only me that explains why the man decided suicide was the better option. Often, the photo comes up in discussions that center on the idea of shame. Not that the falling man felt shame, but those who look upon the photograph are shamed. Somehow, the photo tells a story of who we are as a people, a side of things we don’t want to look at. Sweep all of that under the carpet.
For me, after 9/11 the pizza delivery business over-night completely dried up. People either stopped ordering pizza altogether or stopped tipping. Mary would call me mid-shift and ask for diapers or formula, and I always brought the formula and diapers. Always.
But barely. There was hardly enough money for gas. With my manager’s permission, I often took a twenty from the pizza cash register and replaced the money with a hand written IOU note. I wasn’t the only one borrowing.
I remember being scared. Watching what I said. Wanting to fight. Not knowing who to fight. Feeling utterly numb. When President Bush announced the Afghan War in October, Operation Enduring Freedom, I remember thinking, “Get those bastards.”
Yet, I did not know anyone affected by the Twin Towers. I did not attend funerals, and I did not hear stories from people who knew people that knew people.
I was detached from the entire event. No more than a voyeur.
In my mind, this story happens all at once. No delineation exists between the bank and 9/11 and my daughter’s birth and Y2K or anything. Fifteen years later, not much has changed. We are all still tumbling, trying to fly.