“Somebody yelled something was falling. We didn’t know if it was desks coming out. It turned out it was people coming out, and they started coming out one after the other. We saw the jumpers coming. We didn’t know what it was at first, but then the first body hit and then we knew what it was. And they were just like constant. I was getting sick. I felt like I was intruding on a sacrament. They were choosing to die and I was watching them and shouldn’t have been. So me and another guy turned away and looked at a wall and we could still hear them hit.”
— New York City Firefighter Maureen McArdle-Schulman
Today, the New York City Fire Department released audio transmissions and thousands of pages of oral histories documenting the moments of that day – September 11, 2001. The city didn’t want to do it, but they didn’t have a choice. The release was brought on by a lawsuit filed three years ago by The New York Times.
All Americans were affected by the tragedy of that day. We saw the television footage and the photographs. We visited websites, read the newspapers and the weekly magazines that covered the story. Each of us reacted a little differently to what we saw, what we read and what we heard.
But I’ve come to understand that there were actually two reactions to the terror events of September 11. There was the reaction of citizens who live in California, or Florida, Montana, Texas, Washington State (like me), or any of the other 47 states.
Then there was the reaction of the people who inhabit the other states – New York and Pennsylvania, and our capital Washington DC.
These people hear the sounds, see the moving pictures, and read the transcripts of September 11 and relive something I’ll never know. Their memories of that day are incredibly different than many other Americans. And reminders of the terrorism on that Tuesday 4 years ago conjure up pain and emotions that I’ll never know.
I listened to some of the radio calls, and I read a few of the testimonies given by members of the FDNY. They are amazing. But the affects I feel are the same as if I was to read an account from a survivor of the Titanic, a living victim of the Holocaust, a citizen of Srebrenica or a mother of a child killed at the Beslan School. I can feel sorry for what happened to them but I can’t truly feel the pain they do.
For many New Yorkers, people of Shanksville, and for those who live and work in Washington DC, the events of September 11 bring up a recollection they simply can’t yet bear. Like Firefighter Maureen McArdle-Schulman, they want to turn away, not look, and not listen. It’s just too much. It’s still too soon.
Yes, we need to be reminded of September 11. We need to hold onto the memory of the fallen heroes of that day. We need to do everything possible to keep it from happening again.
But we also need to remember the living victims of that day. The neighbor whose husband was killed in tower 1. The businessman who lost a colleague aboard United Flight 93. The daughter of the official who went to work in an office of the Pentagon that day. There are so many who still need to heal.
Remember them this day, as they face the memory of That Day once more.
MORE: Jeff Jarvis was there on That Day.