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Sep-10-2011 01:14printcomments

The Loneliness of the Falling Man

Ten years now and no one knows of this falling man nor what he, in his last gasp cries to us to seek--justice, that his last flight might have purpose.

The Falling Man
Image known as 'The Falling Man' from 9/11. Courtesy: Wikipedia

(LAVERNE, Calif. ) - The moon outside that sheds its light over this desert landscape of chaparral and twisted Joshua trees where I live is not yet full, but it rises nonetheless, as the sun, fallen below the ragged hills in the west, leaves its salmon glow on distant clouds far to the north, while my mind tries to unravel meaning in a film, not yet released in the United States, “The Falling Man,” that filters through my thoughts this eve of infamy, the atrocity of 9/11 (“The Falling Man,” Allen L. Roland, 9/3/11, The film highlights a photograph taken by Richard Drew of a man hurtling to his death, one shot in a series as he fell from the 102nd story of the World Trade Center.

It is a shot no one wants to see or remember; yet it is unforgettable, catastrophic, a frozen image of human suffering, desperation, forlornness, loneliness in the last seconds of light and life before everlasting darkness. No image captures the appalling reality of this atrocity as this unknown figure falling to his doom, the victim of unknown forces that knew nothing of him, nothing of his family, nothing of his struggles to stay alive, nothing of those left bereft of a father or son or nephew or grandfather, nothing of the sadness or happiness he brought to work that day, nothing of his desires or hopes or dreams caught now in the wind whipping through his shirt tearing it from his body as he twisted helplessly in the vortex that funneled him to his death.

As the sun’s rays faded and the moon rose higher, the thoughts that stung most were those of a life lost so suddenly no thought could guide the ultimate decision to jump; it came out of desperation, hopelessness, fright, even madness. What after all did he know of the causes of his impending death? What caused it? Why? What had he done to deserve it? When and who designed his death? Did they know him, did they care what souls they consigned to hell fire? What right had they to inflict such suffering on others; what minds dictate such acts of mutilation and feel no remorse? Where in this scenario is justice?

Thus did this twisted figure of impending death metastasize into a metaphor of human loss at the hands of those indifferent to human suffering, necessary detritus of human waste, scattered over the landscape, as they force their will on all who remain. What horror attends their efforts. What silence silences the mind that would cry for justice knowing there will be no justice, aware of the conscious need not to see this image, not to confront what it imports, not to demand investigation, evidence, judgment, and ultimate retribution. Ten years now and no one knows of this falling man nor what he, in his last gasp cries to us to seek--justice, that his last flight might have purpose.

Strange how this man’s dying moments rise from the ashes of the Trade Center this September to remind us of all who went to their deaths unbeknownst to the world, lives lost in our indifference to their suffering, unaware of the forces that imposed their will on their brothers and sisters: the Jews buried in the silence of the crematoriums, the Romas alone as always, innocent bystanders as Nazis marched toward empire, the civilians in Dresden that became pawns to the power of the allied minds that used them as fodder for their gain, the Japanese caught in the firebombing of 64 cities before the United States unleashed its weapons of mass destruction wiping off the face of the earth hundreds of thousands of lives never lived, children never born, minds destroyed before they could blossom; their future like that of the falling man lost forever to the ruinous longings of sick minds that find glory in horror and riches in destruction.

Strange also that this anniversary of September 11 comes at a time when the world has a chance to break from the indifference that has shrouded the lives of millions for six decades now, mothers, children, fathers, grandfathers, grandmothers, the sick and the lame who have witnessed foreigners invade their land, steal their homes, destroy their fields, their green houses, their shops, their mosques—and no one cares, no one wants to see, to know that they are falling, their lives lost waiting for the empathy given to the Jews, the chance to rebuild a life after the destruction as was given to the Germans, to resurrect the people and the economy of Japan as though in recompense for the devastation we caused.

Where is the last vestige of hope for these people, the Palestinians, if the world succumbs once again to the impunity that attends the Israeli government through the dictatorial actions of the United States as it vetoes hope, denies justice, and casts a pall of continued suffering over the ravaged people of Palestine. Certainly we must pay attention to this falling man who epitomizes those caught in the merciless behavior of uncontrolled power--selfish, arrogant, soulless without remorse or compassion or respect or dignity for those they destroy. Ultimately that is what this impending vote in the Security Council is all about: justice by all, for all, that it may prevail.


William A. Cook is Professor of English at the University of La Verne in southern California where he served for 13 years as Vice President for Academic Affairs before assuming his faculty position in 2001. Prior to coming to California, he served as a Dean of Faculty, Chair of Department of English and faculty member at institutions large and small, public and private in four eastern states. He is an activist and a writer for numerous Internet publications including Counterpunch,, Pacific Free Press in British Columbia, Dissident Voice and Information Clearing House, serving as senior editor for MWC News out of Canada, and contributing editor at the Palestine Chronicle, the Atlantic Free Press in the Netherlands, and the World Prout Assembly, his polemics against the Bush administration and the atrocities caused by Ariel Sharon and Ehud Olmert in Israel, now our 51st state, have been spread around the Internet world and translated into French, Spanish, Arabic, Chinese, and Italian. Cook also serves on the Board of the People’s Media Project, interviews on radio and TV in South Africa, Canada, Iran and the United States and contributed for five years yearly predictions to the Hong Kong Economic News. This volume follows his Tracking Deception: Bush Mid-East Policy, Hope Destroyed, Justice Denied: The Rape of Palestine and continues his scourge against the hypocrisy, deceit, and destructive policies that have characterized American mid-east policy and its destructive alliance with the Zionist forces that have turned Israel into an apartheid state determined to destroy the Palestinian people.

In addition to his polemics, he writes plays (The Unreasoning Mask, co-authored with his wife, D’Arcy, and The Agony of Colin Powell), satires (see “Advancing the Civilized State: Inch by Bloody Inch” in The Rape), and poetry (Psalms for the 21st Century). His most recent fictional work creates a morality tale based upon real life figures that haunt our lives, The Chronicles of Nefaria He can be reached at or

The Plight of the Palestinians: a Long History of Destruction is a collection of voices from around the world that establishes in both theoretical and graphic terms the slow, methodical genocide taking place in Palestine beginning in the 1940s, as revealed in the Introduction. From Dr. Francis A. Boyle’s detailed legal case against the state of Israel, to Uri Avnery’s “Slow Motion Ethnic Cleansing,” to Richard Falk’s “Slouching toward a Palestinian Holocaust,” to Ilan Pappe’s “Genocide in Gaza,” these voices decry in startling, vivid, and forceful language the calculated atrocities taking place, the inhumane conditions inflicted on the people, and the silence that exists despite the crimes, nothing short of state-sponsored genocide against the Palestinians.

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Umar Aminu September 11, 2011 4:48 am (Pacific time)

May God grant eternal rest to the souls lost in the 911. please stop the killings!

COLLI September 10, 2011 6:38 pm (Pacific time)

To build building so tall that there is no chance of saving those on the highest floor should a fire break out on a lower floor reminds one of the Titanic. The ship that was believed unsinkable. Man is by nature a somewhat foolish beast . . . with some more foolish than others. Greed and ego have led many astray. If there is justice in this world, Israel will learn that this is true, first hand.

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Sean Flynn was a photojournalist in Vietnam, taken captive in 1970 in Cambodia and never seen again.