9/11 Jumpers -- was what they did a sin?

You know how on September 11th, over 200 people “jumped” to their deaths? Was what they did sinful?

It’s said that these people didn’t choose to die, but rather chose how to die; it was either going to happen being suffocated in there or by impact. It could be argued that they were forced out, but would it have been a sinful act to jump rather than just wait for the inevitable, even though the latter may be even worse than the former?

Of course, some adjustment should be made because in a panic situation, you might not be in your right mind.

But, theologically, was it a sinful thing? And I’m guessing most of you will say no. I don’t have any opinion either way because I wasn’t in the tower and I don’t really know how bad it was. This could have implications on end-of-life treatment and euthanasia, so it’s not just a hypothetical discussion.

I dunno, I think their jumping was a desperate all or nothing scramble for life as opposed to willful suicide. The likely hood of them surviving the fall was slim to nil. Their chances of surviving if they stayed in the building were even less than that. Either way, may God have mercy on their souls. :gopray:

If they specifically intended to kill themselves, yes.

If they did not specifically intend to kill themselves, no.

I imagine in that situation they probably jumped out of desperation since they had no chance of survival in the building.

Well, with the exception of those who stumbled out by accident, those who jumped intentionally but unwillingly killed themselves.

It was either that the building or smoke or fire kill them, or that they jump out and do it themselves. They chose to intentionally kill themselves rather than dying from the given scenario, it would seem. So out of desperation or not, it would have been an intentional act.

I’d be willing to met in a situation like that, survival instict would kick in to escape the fire and jumping out the window to get out of the building in a panic-ridden mind would have seemed a viable option.

Either way, we can’t know for sure so it’s not our place to judge those poor souls. May they rest in peace, and God forgive those who committed such a heinous act against civilians, and soften their hearts so that they may love Him.

That said, you could also argue that those that stayed in the building faced certain death by fire, while they might face an incredibly remote chance of survival by jumping. Two people in the last five years (in events not related to 9/11) have fallen from buildings from a height of around 40-50 stories and survived. Even an infinitely small chance of survival would be a better option than no chance at all. (Plus, those not killed by the fire and smoke all eventually died in the collapse anyway.) Thus, they were not choosing to kill themselves, but hoping against hope for survival.

There were also likely an untold number who were clinging to the side of the building or hanging out the window to escape flames, and simply couldn’t hold on any longer and fell. That would not be a willing act.

That’s an excellent point. I would have thought that you had more chance of surviving by staying in there than by jumping out, but your side makes more sense than mine.

This seems to me to be correct. I think that the principle of double effect applies here: the point of jumping is to live. You might die, just like you might die on the way to the grocery store while driving your car. But you don’t intend your death. If you land from the fall and somehow live, or make it to the grocery store in your car, you don’t then pull out a gun and shoot yourself in the head. Because, and I think this is the critical point, the act you did is able to be fully completed without your death, and you had a nonzero chance of survival. Again, if you jumped out of the Twin Towers and survived, you would not then kill yourself. Because by the jumping you were trying to live, not trying to die.

They were in a state of such extreme terror. It is hard to exaggerate. Just try, for five minutes, to imagine what it would have been like. Poor, poor, poor souls. :frowning:

Given the situation, willful consent is not part of the equation. I don’t think anyone in there would be thinking clearly.

I don’t even know if this can be rightly called suicide, since the situation was more desperate than some of you folks have actually expressed.

These people were in buildings that were ablaze and in the process of imminent collapse. The stress level makes the likelihood of rationality and full consent of the will virtually impossible. (Nor can we presume to know the state of each one’s soul and state of mind at that time.)

Let’s take a look at what the Catechism says about suicide and then consider this situation in that better informed context.

2280 Everyone is responsible for his life before God who has given it to him. It is God who remains the sovereign Master of life. We are obliged to accept life gratefully and preserve it for his honor and the salvation of our souls. We are stewards, not owners, of the life God has entrusted to us. It is not ours to dispose of.
2281 Suicide contradicts the natural inclination of the human being to preserve and perpetuate his life. It is gravely contrary to the just love of self. It likewise offends love of neighbor because it unjustly breaks the ties of solidarity with family, nation, and other human societies to which we continue to have obligations. Suicide is contrary to love for the living God.
2282 If suicide is committed with the intention of setting an example, especially to the young, it also takes on the gravity of scandal. Voluntary co-operation in suicide is contrary to the moral law.
**Grave psychological disturbances, anguish, or grave fear of hardship, suffering, or torture can diminish the responsibility of the one committing suicide.
** **2283 We should not despair of the eternal salvation of persons who have taken their own lives. By ways known to him alone, God can provide the opportunity for salutary repentance. The Church prays for persons who have taken their own lives. **

Eternal rest grant unto them O Lord, and may perpetual light shine upon them.

One web page reports the burning temperature of jet fuel is about 1000 C, which converts to 1832 F. Open your oven when you are ready to bake something at 350 degrees. Notice how you recoil from the oven. Multiply that by five or more to get a feel for what came at the people above the flames.

I would think they grasped at the only molecule of hope as they did whatever fear, pain, fright, suffering, and emotions directed. God bless their souls!

Jumping wasn’t their decision to make, because a human being will do anything rather than burn. It is like breathing… simply human nature and not something you decide.

Also in similar disasters in the past the only people who have survived have jumped from incredible heights. The only men who survived the Piper Alpha disaster for example were the ones who risked the 10 story jump into the ocean.

this is the third thread making this horrid, judgmental, presumptuous, and voyeuristic suggestion. If this is the only way we can remember the events of 9/11, by speculating on the sinfulness of a fellow human in a situation none of us has ever or will ever face, we become merely the audience at the coliseum. No one who has not been blest by God with the gift of reading souls has the right to even offer an opinion on whether or not “the jumper was sinning.”

Like I said in the original post, it has end-of-life and euthanasia implications. So excuse me for trying to understand theology better. If it means I have to ask the hard questions, that’s just a part of it. Furthermore, I think the discussion so far has been respectful.

I’m not an idiot and I’d appreciate a little more respect, thank you.

And I think you’ll find that this is exactly what everyone posting here has said. It’s OK to ask questions of others if you don’t know the answer and worry about it.


I am not a medic, not a doctor or a scientist, But what i know is that people who are trapped in a building under fire will be suffocated , even if not suffocated in literal term, the lack of oxygen will cause their brain to misjudge the situations. In a sense they will not be a in a position to think. At that time they cannot be blamed for the decisions they make.

And there is no comparison to what happened to those people in WTC. If at all they jumped , we can only conclude that they jumped to live not to die.

No one is calling anyone names. If they are, I’ll send my Bichon Frise into attack mode! :wink:

Ask questions if you want too, just remember that it’s a touchy subject. The wounds are still very fresh.

My opinion-If you don’t have anything but unlimited compassion for those innocent victims-no matter how they died-well, your moral compass, no matter how you put it, is way off.

I don’t see the point of all the emotionally-charged rhetoric. It’s a simple philosophical question which has been around a lot longer than 2001. In fact, the classical expression of the question does even refer to a burning tower: is it an act of suicide to jump from a burning tower (they had them in the old days too).

The correct answer appears to be “no”. It’s not an act of suicide if you are jumping not to die but to live. Which I’m sure was the case of the 9/11 jumpers. They were trying to live. They had no other option… to stay was certain death. So they took their (sadly remote) chances.

then ask a question about end of life decisions and euthanasia, do not by implication accuse people who are dead and cannot defend themselves of suicide, which is what this and the other threads amount to.

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