Sep 11, 2012

911 Tribute/ Kevin Cosgrove Voice from the Towers

Below is an article that I first wrote in September 2009. 

I  now re-post it every September 11th as a small way of honoring of the depth I feel about this tragedy especially after 911 calls such as Mr. Cosgrave's really brought the reality of these victims pain under a magnifying glass; lending so much more clarity and humanity to  an event that we were already so pained by.

As one little boy said in his memorial to Kevin Cosgrove on the 911 Memorial Page, although he was young when 911 happened -He was only ten) seeing Kevin's video and more importantly, hearing his entire 911 call, capturing his moment of death,  forever changed the way that this youngster looked at-experienced the entire scope of the tragic events.

Distant Media camera views of two gashed skyscrapers emitting large plumes of smoke, along with incessant TV shots of the hijacked planes piercing the skyscrapers thousands of feet in the air,lent children and adults alike, what became a grateful distance, as the mayhem and human carnage was so mostly so very high in the air pulled from our immediate view,.

Those simpler images are what most children saw broadcast on the day these acts of barbaric terrorism struck our nation.;

Perhaps because even adults were not yet courageous Nor wise yet to see the many smaller but oh so human experiences of that day; I admire Mrs. Cosgrove for allowing the tape to be used both in the Moussaoui trial, but also to be posted publically on the internet  likely giving the matter great thought hoping to humanize these massive acts of terrorism for millions of people across the world, many of them too young to remember the day itself nor the heroism

The Falling Man

I was researching an article in Esquire entitled "The Falling Man"

It was a poignant multi-layered culmination of stories  about the September 11th victims that  were beginning to be incorrectly referred to as the " jumpers",

Not only is the term a total misnomer as the families and morgues were quick to correct it was insulting;  Most were forced to to leap out of broken windows in the towers due to encroaching fire and heat, some literally blown out of windows at the onset of the planes collision with the buildings,  which was made so much worse by the hijacked aircraft's pre=planned full fuel tanks. The terrorists wanted maximum carnage ,

It was through the Falling Man article that I came to know about the existence of the 9-1-1 calls most  made by victims trapped on the higher floors of the towers. 

I had been made aware years earlier a plethora of  heartbreaking answering machine messages made by victims to family and friends, as they anticipated their probably deaths. The calls came from both the hijacked planes and the towers after both tower one and two were struck

 Listening to the collage of such sad and personal messages left by frustrated trapped  fire victims had stuck with me for months and at one point I vowed I wouldnt listen to anymore of them because the pain of the caller and the family members who recieved them was just too great to bear.

Now, a few years later Kevin Congreves 8911 tape presented itself; my personal role as activist for crime victims had evolved and the importance of Kevins' s frustration and pain and the fact that he left a message for us led me to decided I/ we owed it to Kevin Cosgrove ro listen to that last minutes of his life and his dedication to his children his wife and his struggle to see them again,

After a great deal of waffling back and forth, I finally made a decison and  mustered the courage to listen to Kevin Cosgroves 9-1-1 call.

I have to admit, I wasn't prepared for what I heard;

Listening to the call was much worse than I expected.

It was as if I was right there with Kevin. The experience was gripping, heartbreaking and left me forever changed. 

actually experienced the physical symptoms that Mr Cosgrove was enduring; the black thick smoke that was choking him and making it almost impossible for him to see. The growing panic and the obvious frustration of the man as he nor the other caller were given any concrete information as  when help might be coming.

Kevin Cosgrove 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 assured her he was okay 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. Tragically in any event there was no chance that a helicopter landing was possible in either building anyway, the smoke and heat made any roof rescue impossible, yet I watched those helicopters and small planes circling those towers and I was so 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 they thought that rescue baskets could be dropped to swing to the broken windows as the copters hovered as close as they possibly could to the buildings. All I know is that there were hundreds of people waving flags, sheets shirts and scraps of material, some 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 on his memorial page expressed so aptly,  "I found myself not wanting to let go of him." at the end of the call.

I can only imagine what that well meaning 911 operator felt as the call ended so horribly.
And like many others who chose listen to this and other 911 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 this tape along with Mellisa Doi's and a few others became available to the public.

After reading this post in it's entirety, if you wish to listen to the tape, I have embedded a version that 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., a family man.

I warn that listening this tape will be an extremely emotional experience, and it will forever change anyone who listens to it. At first I regretted having listened because the callers plight was so raw, so awful and much worse than I expected - and I could not shake the memory or the feelings. It was a Pandora's box I felt. 

However as with other crimes, rather than take the easy way out and avoid, because it was unpleasant,  I came to see that we should never regret sharing our brothers pain  for me a necessary pain a pain that ultimately transformed 911 from a terrible tragedy day to something altogether more more personal, raw, human and more true.

I came to understand that we owe the victims, at the very least, the truth of their experiences created by these violent acts. Embracing the complete 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 distant 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 utterly surreal as it happened. It was not that we couldn't and didn't consider the horror of what was  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 distance, because really, the horror might have been too much for us to bear. The voices of the people on these tapes and their stories change all of this forever The people themselves now reside in us. We carry them.

Many people have asked why I listened to the Cosgrove and other 911 tapes and why I would encourage others to listen, when it was so sad and so awful. I always share that sometimes circumstance presents an opportunity where pain can serve as an engine for greater understanding, and ultimately, spiritual growth as human beings, individuals, and a society. This is one of those times.

The Internet has opened up a door for us. I do not suggest using it as voyeurs, but as caring witnesses . We can use the powerful emotions that are triggered in us, the empathy, the pain the frustration and even the anger,  to bring us to a new level of awareness about violent crime, tragedy, and the value of life and death.

When reading the memorial pages of the 911 callers, many people shared that problems that has just seemed so important in their lives prior to listening to Kevin Cosgrove's desperate last minutes on earth, immediately were diminished. And a new found appreciation for what one had in their lives spring up.

This was not a rare thing,  a great many people cited this tape as a turning point in their lives, an appreciation for every hour of every day, marked by the experience of listening to words of these poor souls who expected to have a regular day and were robbed of their lives their loves.

Thousands expressed gratitude to Kevin Cosgrove and his family for giving them an opportunity to rethink the value of their own lives through his experience..

The link below is to Kevin Cosgrove's Memorial Page. New condolence messages appear weekly from all over the world since the 911 tapes were released. I am certain that the Cosgrove family reads them, and I  hope that they provide some solace to them, knowing that their beloved father, husband, brother and friend had such  life changing impact on so many.

As we read them we see again and again people saying that they now embrace their daily lives, lives they has been taking for granted.  I read memorial messages from young people who shared that they were not old enough to grasp the reality of 911 when it happened they were too young or immature and to them it was a piece of history obviously considered a massive "tragedy" But many did not personalize it the empathy and compassion wasn't there because it was too distant and they we rent taught about it from a humanistic perspective, merely a history class.

These young people often went on to tell of shedding their first tears about this tragedy after listening to Kevin Cosgrove call and his last final minutes in the burning South tower. This is  but some of the reasons that I now realized releasing the tapes was the right thing to do.

My hope is that we will be more inclined to spend our time ministering, helping  people that are in pain or in need, As well we will live each day to the fullest and be grateful for the time we are given and those people whom we are gifted to share our love with.

Rest on Peace  Kevin Cosgrove,  Doug Cherry, Melissa Doi and every single hero and soldier that lived out their last hours heroes all on this sad and infamous day that shall 

never be forgotten.