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Like Snow

In the first chapter of Don DeLillo’s Falling Man, the reader is immediately immersed in the mutedly horrific daze that is Keith’s trek away from the falling twin towers.  It’s a shambling walk that becomes the world while, coolly, the narrator clarifies that “The world was this as well, figures in windows a thousand feet up, dropping into free space , and the stink of fuel fire, and the steady rip of sirens in the air” (4).  Calmly, even clinically, DeLillo describes the physical setting for man in whose mind the narrative is entrapped.  Objects fall from the sky – papers, clothing, human forms – and Keith walks without pause through the chaos.

            “In time he heard the sound of the second fall.  He crossed Canal Street and began to see things, somehow, differently.  Things did not seem charged in the usual ways, the cobbled street, the cast-iron buildings.  There was something critically missing from the things around him.  They were unfinished, whatever that means.  They were unseen, whatever that means, shop windows, loading platforms, paint-sprayed walls.  Maybe this is what things look like when there is no one here to see them.”… Page 5

Keith’s state of shock and unreality at the falling of the towers is revisited in a multitude of ways throughout Part One of Falling Man, as he recalls the event and where it has taken him, yet the event is never reevaluated in such a way that the horrible vacancy is solved or eradicated from his thoughts or memories.  The quote from page five struck me deeply the first time I read it and has now taken on new significance.

Listening to “On the Transmigration of Souls” caused this quote, and all mentions of Keith’s experience of 9/11, to snap cleanly into place with the emotions evoked by a specific turn in Adams’s song.  It is a lengthy piece, and almost overwhelming, but there is a point near the conclusion wherein Keith’s numbness (and the potential shock of any individual experiencing such trauma) seems to have been written into the music.  After the last terrible crescendo of almost frighteningly powerful noise finally subsides, an eerily, almost funereally, soft wave of music sweeps in behind it.  Almost as if drawn there by someone else, I pictured an image of falling ash, muffled and quiet, and was put immediately in mind of Keith’s passive, dulled escape from the falling towers.  It is oddly painful how deeply and naturally the emotions I experienced with these separate pieces of art match one another, even with how different the mediums of the artists are.

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