Sep 11, 2011

Kevin Cosgrove; Victim, Hero.

The following is an article that I wrote in 2009, I  have posted it every September 11th as my way of honoring all those who were killed through these cowardly violent crimes
Kevin Cosgrove
I was recently researching an article called "The Falling Man" about the victims who were forced to leap to their death from the burning towers on 911, and within that investigation,  I came upon two tape recordings of  9-1-1 calls made by victims trapped in the higher floor of the World Trade Center.
After long deliberations, I finally listened to the tapes;  It was excruciating, heartbreaking and  forever life-changing. 
As I listened, I experienced the physical symptoms that the caller was enduring; the tblack thick smoke that was choking him making it near imposssible to see. The growing panic and frustration with the 911 caller as they were not given any concrete information as to when help might be arriving.

Kevin  actually worked at Aon Corporation on the 83th floor. But as designated office fire chief he tried to make certain that most of his group of  AON employees evacuated after the North tower was hit,  he then called his wife and began the descent down the stairs on foot just as the second plane hit the south tower. The explosion and heat smoke probably drove him right back up now to the higher floors, to the roof -this the place where his fire training had always taught him to go in situations like this- to ascend was ones only hope to the roof, for a helicopter rescue.

Tragically. the roof door was locked, as was the roof-door on the North tower -hundreds of people attempted that same superhuman climb up miles of stairs, many flooded, covered with debris only to discover locked doors. The word was that there was no chance that a helicopter landing was possible in either building anyway; they say that the smoke and heat made any rood rescue impassible yet I watched those helicopters and small planes circling those towers and I was sol very frustrated and angry as I imagined the office workers trapped with broken windows and flames behind them, wondering why the rescue helicopters were not attempting to help them?

Perhaps ladders of rope to swing to the broken windows as the copters hovered as close as they possibly could to the buildings.  All I know is there were hundreds of people waving flags sheets shirts and scraps of material climbing down the face of the building, believing that those helicopters were there for a reason, for some kind of rescue...and yet, there was none.

In the meantime Kevin Cosgrove took his exhausted body and climbed back down flights and flights of stairwells by foot, facing growing smoke labored breathing and panic; he must have run into the first office where he spotted other men or voices gathered    It was this office on the Southwest corner facing the financial center that he made his now, infamous 9-1-1 telephone call from.
 As one person expressed so aptly, at the end of Kevin Congreve's call  "I found myself not wanting to let go of him."

And like many others who chose listen to these phone calls, they have forever changed my perspective of that terrible day.

Kevin Cosgrove's 9-1-1 call  was one of three used as evidence in the Moussaui trial, and this is why It  has become available to the public via the freedom of information act.

After reading this post in it's entirety if you wish to listen to the tape, I have embeded the most tasteful version that I could find. It has a heart warming biography of Mr Cosgrove's life giving us a real feel for who he was at his very core. A good man.

I must warn that it will be an extremely emotional experience, and it will forever change anyone who listens to it. At first I regretted having listened because it was so raw, so real, and much worse than I expected. But I came to realize that I should not regret listening and sharing in this man's pain -  it was for me a necessary pain, a pain that ultimately transformed 911 from a terrible tragedy, to something altogether more more personal, more human and more true.

I now understand that we owe the victims, at the very least, the truth of that day, by embracing the complete and unvarnished reality of their experience, this tape leads us there. The pain that all of us feel upon hearing these desperate callers describe  the horrific conditions in the towers, their fear over their likely imminent deaths, and the distress in having to leave their families and loved ones,  made us now feel that we knew them. By becoming privy to the most intimate last moments of their lives, this has allowed us to honor their experience without the whitewashed effect of pulled back news- camera shots of a burning buildings thousands of feet in the air.

Even the sudden and awful collapse of the towers into veritable dust bowl, like so much else that happened that day, was somehow surreal when it happened.  Its not that we couldn't and didn't consider the horror of what was likely going on way up 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 have asked why on earth I listened and why I would encourage others to listen when it was so sad and so awful. I try to explain as I have here that sometimes circumstance presents an opportunity where pain can serve as an engine for greater understanding and ultimately, spiritual growth, as individuals, as a community and finally a society.


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 pain and even the anger-to bring us to a new level of awareness; about violence, crime, tragedy, justice, Life and death. Hopefully with the help of a higher power, 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.

When reading the memorial pages of the 911 callers, many people shared that the problems that has seemed so important in their lives prior to listening to Kevin Cosgrove's desperate last minutes on earth, immediately were diminished. And this experience was not a rare thing, in fact a great deal of folks cited this as a turning point in their lives, an appreciation for every hour of every day, marked by the experience of listening to these tapes. Thousands of good people expressed gratitude to Kevin Cosgrove and his family for giving them an opportunity to rethink the value of their lives through his heroism..



This link is. Kevin Cosgrove's Memorial Page  New messages appear daily from all over the world, more since the 911 tapes were released.  Somehow I am certain that the Cosgrove family reads them, and I only hope that they provide solace to them, knowing that their beloved father husband son Freind, has had such a life-changing impact on so many.

Many people will embrace thier daily lives, days, hours minutes - once taken for granted. Time and again, I read memorial messages from young folks not old enough to grasp the reality of September 11th when it happened but, who share that theyve shed their first tears about this tragedy, by listening to Kevin's  final minutes and his his death.

My hope is that we will be more inclined to spend our time ministering,or helping -  people in pain or in need; This is the legacy of  Kevin Cosgrove .

May you rest in God's loving arms, your spirit in eternal comfort,


The following is my message on Mr Cosgroves 911 Memorial Page.

Dear Cosgrove family 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 torn asunder.
The next day,  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, so courageous and heroic in his love for his family and his will to survive for them.

At first, I  admit that I felt like a voyeur, and I wondered whether this tape and others like it should be made available for the public to hear, was it not just re-traumatizing everyone?
But I realized as the day passed that I, along with the the rest of the world, need to hear these calls and the voices of the people who suffered and perished on that day, for there is really no other way to fully grasp the unvarnished reality of the suffering and loss that this series of terrorist acts wrought upon so many decent loving 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 too many of the awful details of that day, and even for a few years afterward. I had recently been the victim of a violent crime and was still involved in the court process for that case. So when Sept 11 brought its horror and violence to a state literally a leap away, I just had to numb myself a bit, for otherwise I felt  that I would surely crumble from the sheer magnitude of  pain and suffering involved in the tragedy. I was acutely sensitive to other peoples pain empathetic, under normal cirumstances and at that point I was in the eye of a the post trauma that resulted from the crimes wrought against me a few months earlier.

So for the first time perhaps ever in my life I put a little shell around my heart and wouldn't allow myself to listen or read too much about the horror of this happening. In a way it was fortunate that the media was panning the cameras back as it were for the first time that I could ever recall. Even they understood that it was too much pain too soon.

Perhaps only now, 8 years later, was I truly ready.



Today I  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 courage his anger, even his humanness are now forever a part of me.


I have prayed to God that he holds Kevin in his peaceful and loving embrace forever and that the Cosgrove family and friends be given peace and comfort while  holding onto the memory of this, by all accounts, devoted, kind loving-and clearly courageous man.

*** Posted by Laurel O'Keefe ***