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Page one of Don Delillo’s novel is titled, “Part One Bill Lawton.” I’ve read White Noise, also by Delillo, so I had some understanding of what the writing style in the novel would be. I assumed (you know what they say when you assume…) the title was in reference to a main character. I stumbled awkwardly through the first 30 or so pages thinking this Bill Lawton person was the main male character, Keith. Over time the reader will come to the realization that Bill Lawton is the man the children speak of. And then, on page 73 the mystery of Bill Lawton is solved.

“Robert thought, from television or school or somewhere, that he was hearing a certain name. Maybe he heard the name once, or misheard it, then imposed this version on future occasions. In other words he never adjusted his original sense of what he was hearing.”

“What was he hearing?”

“He was hearing Bill Lawton. They were saying bin Laden.”

And my heart chills a little bit. These children were studying the skies, scanning for planes. Not birds as Justin’s mother had suggested. But planes. Planes that were going to tear down the already fallen second tower. And Bill Lawton was the mastermind behind it all.

In the first section of the novel I think this is the most shocking portion. Viewing 9/11 through a child’s eyes is sad and confusing. Justin and the siblings want to do what’s right and make sure the city is safe keeping New York out of harm’s way. Little do they realize these problems are too big for US government and security officers. Their hearts are genuinely good and they clearly want to be heroes. But their innocence is fair to great for the problem at hand. Their binoculars and whispers won’t save the second tower. Justin says to his mother, “[Bill Lawton] says things about the planes. We know they’re coming because he says they are. But that’s all I’m allowed to say. He says this time the towers will fall.” She reminds him the towers are down but Justin remains adamant.

It is possible to tie in the music we listened to in class on Tuesday here. To make the connection between childhood innocence and the misinterpretation of 9/11 the song to listen to is “On the Transmigration of Souls” by John Adams. The song features chilling lines read from missing person fliers and a New York Times article. What sounded like a small, forlorn, lost boy read majority of the lines throughout the 25 minute piece. The voice of the child simply stating the height, weight, age, and floor number is traumatic. And when the boy begins to quote the lines from the New York Times article, “Portraits in Grief”, I nearly broke down crying.

The lover says: “Tomorrow will be three months, yet it feels like yesterday since I saw your beautiful face, saying, ‘Love you to the moon and back, forever.’”

The innocence of that forever is what has me hurting inside. Here’s an adult who’s lost a loved one to tragic event, who, despite outside pressures, has remained a child at heart. That innocence was stolen from them when the towers fell. Justin in Falling Man is still clinging helplessly to his innocence.

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