The dominant theme of chapter 9 is a depiction of the burdens placed upon Keith; his wife, Lianne; and the jihadi Hammad by the attack on the Twin Towers.
It has been thirty-six days since the attack. Keith is still caught between "the deep shared self, down through the smoke" of his escape from the Tower and his return to "safety and family, to the implications of one's conduct." He wrestles endlessly with the possible consequences of admitting to his affair with Florence Givens. Meanwhile, Lianne is profoundly disturbed by the Falling Man, a performance artist who imitates a person falling from one of the towers. Other onlookers are mostly unmoved by the spectacle, but Lianne runs away until she has to stop to catch her breath.
Delillo returns in the chapter to Hammad and his stay in Florida. Hammad feels that "he was a man now, finally, ready to close the distance to God." However, thoughts of the people who will die in the attacks weigh upon him. He also wonders whether his sacrifice is just a form of suicide. Amir, the mastermind of the plot, answers his questions and dispels his doubts. This section continues the author's examination of the motives behind the attack on the towers.
At the start of chapter 10, three years have passed since the attack on the World Trade Center. DeLillo's point here is that the effects of the attack still linger on. Lianne is with her son at a demonstration, but being in a crowd does not "return to her a sense of belonging." She also suffers from a "self-hell" of insomnia. Lianne remembers how she talked to her mother's lover, Martin, at her memorial service. Her mother's relationship with him had been destroyed by arguments over why the attackers had struck.
Martin makes disdainful remarks about America's place in the world in the aftermath of the attacks. In this way, DeLillo introduces the wider issue of how the events of 9/11 changed the country's international standing.