Sep 10, 2009

Kevin Cosgrove - 911 victim and hero.

I was researching an article called "the falling man" recently and I came upon a tape of several 911 calls that were made by the victims trapped in the burning towers on Sept 11th 2001.

After a long deliberation, going back and forth on it, I decided to listen; It was very difficult, very painful and life-changing. At times I literally experienced the physical symptoms that the caller was enduring, due to the smoke and heat coming from the fires where they were trapped on the 103rd floor of the South tower twin tower offices.

Just as another caller expressed so aptly, At the end of Mr Cosgroves call, "I found myself not wanting to let go of him".And like many other people, hearing this call has forever changed me and my entire perspective of that terrible day.

The italicized text at the bottom of this post is the condolence message that I left at Kevin Cosgroves online 911 memorial site. I've supplied a link to his 911 call with corresponding video in this post's title header above. Kevin' desperate phone conversation with a 9-1-1 operator ultimately captured what were to be his last words ever spoken as the South tower collapsed, and as the only one of it;s kind it was used as evidence in the Moussaui trial, the only person ever prosecuted for the Sept 11th crimes..

After reading this post, if you wish to listen to the tape, it is available in the youtube link above. I must warn that no matter who you are, Listening to it will be an extremely emotional experience, and will  forever change you. At first, I  regretted having listened to it,  it hurt to hear this poor man's physical struggle with the encroaching smoke and depleted oxegen, let alone his emotional frustration at being stuck with noone being able to tell him that the nearest fireman were anywhere near him or if they were even attempting to get up that high. (I believe that the highest floor that fireman got to was to the 78th floor where a radio call was made by a firefightter asking for water or back up to fight a bad fire on that floor,)

 Like most other people was completely unprepared for the ending of Mr Cosgroves call.  I didnt realize that the tape captured the tower falling and was literally gripping the arms of my chair as I heard the ominous rumble of the building as it began floor by floor to collpase- it happened it was so raw, so real, and I couldnt bear to be so close to this man's pain. But I  came to realize that I should not regret for I came to see that it was for me, a necessary pain a pain that ultimately transformed 911 from an awful tragic event to something altogether more real, more personal, more human and more true. And we owe the victims at the very least truth by embracing the complete and unvarnished reality of thier experience.

The pain that many of us feel upon hearing these callers speak about those horrific conditions in the towers, about their fear over their likely, imminent deaths, the distress in having to leave their families and loved ones, all of this made us feel as if we knew them. By sharing in the most intimate last moments of their lives, this has allowed us to honor their experience without the whitewash effect of news camera shots of a burning buildings thousands of feet away in the air.

Even the sudden and awful collapse of the towers into veritable dust bowl like much that happened that day was somehow surreal- Its not that we couldn't and didn't consider the horror of what was likely going on way up there where our eyes could not see, it just wasn't in our face, so to speak, and we gratefully took advantage of that kind bit of distance, because really, the horror might have been too much for us to bear.

The voices of the people on these tapes however will be with us forever The people themselves will thus reside in us. We carry them now.
Many people have asked why on earth I listened and why I was encouraging others to listen when it was so sad and so awful. I try to explain that sometimes circumstance presents an opportunity where pain can serve as an engine for greater understanding and ultimately, growth, both individually and then as a community and society. We dont often get a chance to understand the suffering involved by victims of violent crime0-and that is what 911 was--a violent crime of huge proportion, committed against thousands of people.

These tapes and the nature of the Internet itself, have opened up a door for us. I do not suggest listening as voyeurs, but as caring witnesses . We can use the powerful emotions that are triggered in us- the empathy, the anger and the pain -to bring us to a new level of awareness; about crime, tragedy, about justice, Lifeand death. We can then use this awareness wisely and do only positive things with it. These good things shall become the legacy of those who perished that day-victims and heroes all.
So many people related that problems in their lives that had seemed so important prior to listening to the tape of Kevins desperate last minutes on earthl, immediately became nothing at all And this experience was not a rare thing- many many cited this experience as a turning point in their lives, marked by the experience of listening to these tapes. Indeed they expressed gratitude to Mr Cosgrove and his family- for giving them an opportunity to rethink the value of their lives.

Every day, every moment all of our loved ones must be appreciated, for we never know how much time we have left. As daunting as it is This is a beautiful legacy to leave, albeit we must leap through the fire, so to speak, to get to it.

Note: The link to the 911 tape itself is at the title header of this post - below is a copy of my entry on Kevins memorial page)
Leave a memorial comment yourself for I am certain that the family reads them and I am hopeful that reading them as they crop up every other day at least, provides solace to them knowing that thier beloved has had such a positive, albeit bittersweet- impact on so many.
Rest in Peace Kevin.
The entry in italics was taken from he 911 memorial page found via the link below;

Dear Mr Cosgrove and loved ones,

I heard the tape of Kevin's 9-1-1 call for the first time yesterday while researching the "falling man" article in Esquire magazine. I cried much of the night, and my heart literally felt ripped open. I made myself listen to it again today, hoping that the shock had worn off just a bit and wanting to feel somehow closer to this man who was so courageous and heroic in his love for his family and his will to survive
for them.

At first, I felt like a voyeur and wondered whether this tape and others like it should be made available for the public to hear, was it not just re-traumatizing everyone I wondered?

But I realized as the day passed that I, and all of us need to hear these calls and voices of those who suffered and perished on that day, because there is really no other way to fully understand the unvarnished reality of the suffering and loss that this terroristic act wrought upon so many decent human beings.

Indeed, because of this tape, September 11th is now more real to me today almost 7 years after the crimes, than it was in the weeks and months following the actual tragedy. At the time,I just couldn't allow myself to listen to to many of the awful details of sept 11 and even for a few years afterward. I had recently been the victim of a violent crime and indeed I was still involved in the court process for that case. So when Sept 11 brought its horror and violence to myself and the world I just had to numb myself a bit for otherwise I felt I would surely crumble from the sheer magnitude of the pain and suffering involved in the tragedy. I was too sensitive normally and at that point I was in the eye of the PTSD storm from the crimes wrought against me only months earlier.
So for the first time perhaps ever in my life I put a shell around my heart and wouldn't allow myself to listen or read too much about the horror of this happening.
Perhaps only now, 8 years later, was I truly ready.
I want to say that I too feel that I now know this man who before listening to this tape-was a stranger. He now dwells in my heart and in my soul . His determination, his strength, his humor, his fear his humanness really, are now forever a part of me.

I have prayed earnestly to God that he holds Kevin in his peaceful and loving embrace forever and that the entire Cosgrove family be given peace and comfort while holding onto the memory of this by all acounts, devoted humorous loving-and now we know- courageous man.
*** Posted by Laurel O'keefe ***

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