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While listening to John Adams’ “On the Transmigration of Souls,” I was at a loss for words when I heard the lyrics “I see water and buildings,” because I immediately thought of Falling Man. Throughout the story water plays a recurring role, even though it seems like something as simple as water would mean nothing in comparison to the idea of planes crashing into The Twin Towers and thousands of people dying. Three of the most important mentions of water deal with Keith, Lianne’s husband, and Florence Givens, the owner of the briefcase, and all three occur as they describe their escape from The Towers. As Florence breaks down and tells Keith about her escape she remembers that “she’d lost her shoes or kicked them off and there was water like a stream somewhere, nearby, running down a mountain” (DeLillo 44) The last two quotes occur at the end of the book as Keith finally tells his story of that fateful day. Just like Florence, as Keith walked down the stairs he felt that “there was water running somewhere,” and once he finally reached beneath the plaza, and the people started to run, there was “water pouring in from somewhere” (171, 173). Although I am not positive what Don DeLillo meant by the recurring mention of water, I have a theory that it has something to do with Madeline Amy Sweeney, a stewardess from Flight 11. As quoted in The New York Times, it is said that once the hijackers took over, they told passengers “they could call their families, [because] they seemed intent on letting the world know, blow by blow, what they were doing”(Broughton). Sweeney took this opportunity to call her ground manager in Boston. Although it is said that she remained calm and collected throughout the phone, her last words “I see water and buildings. Oh my God! Oh my God!” obviously carry a sense of urgency with them (Broughton). Before listening to John Adams’ “On the Transmigration of Souls” and reading the lyrics, I would have never googled “I see water and buildings.” Therefore, I never would have been able to make the connection that water may indeed be something of importance in Falling Man.

Works Cited:

Broughton, Philip Delves. “Last words from Flight 11: ‘I can see water and buildings. Oh my God!’.” The New York Times (2001).

DeLillo, Don. Falling Man . New York: Scribner , 2007.

Philharmonic, The New York and Lincoln Center’s Great Performers. “On the Transmigration of Souls .” On the Transmigration of Souls .       cond. Lorin Maazel. By John Adams. New York , 2002.



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