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Not to Jump

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On Friday September 9th, 2011, my AP United States History teacher showed our class a very emotional video that filmed the 9/11 attacks from inside the lobby of the North Tower of the World Trade Center. At one point in the video, the filmmaker is explaining why the evacuees of the North Tower could not leave through the front doors. He described, “First it was because debris was falling outside, then it was people falling.” This brought up the question after the video, “Would you jump?” My answer is absolutely not.

After the first plane crashed into the World Trade Center, it was a mere 102 minutes before both buildings collapsed. During that time period, fire spread through the upper floors of both towers making it almost, if not entirely, impossible to escape. Some men and women who were on the top floors decided to have a fast sure death instead of a possibly slow painful one. Jumping to one’s death might seem like a better alternative because death would be immediate, but at that point a person is throwing his/her life away with both hands. Jumping out of a building is committing suicide no matter how bad it is inside of the building. When a person jumped out the upper levels of the World Trade Center, there was no chance of survival. The men and women who jumped literally gave up on life and the possibility of living. They gave up on hope, and hope is America’s last defense that should withstand anything, even a terrorist attack.

The American dream is based on the idea that a person of any background or in any situation can make things better for themselves and others by working their butts off. The World Trade Center was the ideal example of the American dream. It took six years to build the twin towers that rose above the New York skyline. People from all over the world worked in those buildings. They were the symbol of hope and peace and for striving to create a better world. Although it is unknown how many people jumped from the World Trade Center, there were far more who stayed inside and faced the smoke and flames and eventually, the collapse of more than a million tons of rubble. They stayed because they had hope. They had people whom the loved deeply, and they did everything they could to get out. Even those who called to say goodbye to their loved ones still had the courage to stay in the destroyed building because jumping is letting the terrorists win. The hijackers’ goal was to shake America to its core and if possible completely destroy it. If hope is one of the pillars America is built on, then that is one thing we can never lose. The people who jumped from the building lost hope, and if America followed them, we would have the same end, immediate death. Hope is how America persevered through the Great Depression. Hope is how America survived the assassination of four of its presidents. Hope is how American won World War II. Hope is how America adopted Civil Rights. Hope is the reason America is still standing today after the attacks on 9/11. Suicide is not hope.

There were many lessons to learn from 9/11, some political, some economic, but one lesson that may seem too much to bear is the lesson of hope. A country is only as strong as its weakest point and that point cannot be hope. The empathy we feel for the jumpers in 9/11 can only be that: empathy. We must persevere through anything thrown at our country. Hope is what makes us survive and every American should be able to say, “No. I believe in my life, thank you very much,” when someone asks, “Would you jump?”




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