HolyCoast: The Jumpers

Saturday, September 10, 2011

The Jumpers

I knew that many people chose to jump from the burning World Trade Center rather than burn to death in the massive fire, but I didn't realize how many there were.  Sundries Shack linked to a USA Today article published a year after the attacks that tells some chilling facts:
USA TODAY estimates that at least 200 people jumped to their deaths that morning, far more than can be seen in the photographs taken that morning. Nearly all were from the north tower, which was hit first and collapsed last. Fewer than a dozen were from the south tower.

The jumping started shortly after the first jet hit at 8:46 a.m. People jumped continuously during the 102 minutes that the north tower stood. Two people jumped as the north tower began to fall at 10:28 a.m., witnesses said.

For those who jumped, the fall lasted 10 seconds. They struck the ground at just less than 150 miles per hour — not fast enough to cause unconsciousness while falling, but fast enough to ensure instant death on impact. People jumped from all four sides of the north tower. They jumped alone, in pairs and in groups.

Intense smoke and heat, rather than flames, pushed people into this horrific choice. Flight 11 struck the 94th through 98th floors of the north tower, shooting heat and smoke up elevator shafts and stairways in the center of the building. Within minutes, it would have been very difficult to breathe. That drove people to the windows 1,100 to 1,300 feet above ground.
The whole article was chilling.

I bought the documentary that was filmed by the French brothers who shot the only footage of the first plane hitting the North Tower, and one thing you can't ever forget is the sound of those bodies slamming into the ground around the lobby area as the fire department worked to get teams up into the building. The article mentions those sounds:
On the west side, falling bodies crashed onto the awning covering the circular VIP driveway. The thudding of bodies at this entrance can be heard on a video taken near there by French cameraman Jules Naudet, whose footage was broadcast on CBS on March 11 (2002).

To my knowledge that documentary, which originally aired on CBS, has only been shown twice on TV in the 10 years since the attack. It really brings out the horror of the event, and if I was in charge it would air every year.

Surprisingly, the jumpers actually saved lives in the South Tower:
The sight of people jumping saved lives, too. In the south tower, people had a close-up view of people plunging to their deaths from a building that was a mirror image of their own. "I looked at a couple of people jumping, and that was it. I'd seen enough. I said, 'We've got to get the hell out of here,' " says Jaede Barg, who worked for Aon on the south tower's 100th floor.

Many south tower survivors say the sight of people jumping created an urgency that caused them to leave immediately and ignore announcements that it was safe to return to their desks. About 1,400 people evacuated the upper floors before the second jet hit.
I should clarify that although they're called "jumpers" in the article, the coroner never classified them that way because none of these people came to work that day planning to jump from the building.

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