The Falling Man
The Falling Man is a photograph taken by Associated Press photographer Richard Drew of a man falling from the World Trade Center during the September 11 attacks in New York City. The subject of the image was trapped on the upper floors of the North Tower and either fell searching for safety or jumped to escape the fire and smoke. The photograph was taken at exactly 9:41:15 a.m. on the day of the attacks.
The photograph was widely criticized after publication in international media on September 12, 2001, with readers labeling the image as "disturbing, cold-blooded, ghoulish, and sadistic". Since its inception, the photo has gained acclamation for being a "touching work of art" and a "masterpiece in photojournalism".
Of the 2,606 victims killed inside the World Trade Center and on the ground in New York City during the September 11 attacks, some have estimated that at least 200 people fell or jumped to their deaths, while other estimates put the number around 100. Officials could not recover or identify the bodies of those forced out of the buildings prior to the collapse of the towers. The New York City medical examiner's office said it does not classify the people who fell to their deaths on September 11 as "jumpers". According to the office, the victims who died by falling "were forced out by the smoke and flames or blown out."
The morning of September 11, Drew was on assignment for the Associated Press, photographing a maternity fashion show in Bryant Park. Alerted by his editor to the attacks, Drew took the subway to the Chambers street subway station, near the World Trade Center site. He has stated that he took the falling man image while at the corner of West and Vesey streets, from a low angle. He took eight photographs in sequence, after realizing that a series of loud cracking sounds was not concrete falling, but rather the bodies of people who had jumped hitting the ground. He took between ten and twelve different sequences of images of people jumping from the tower, before having to evacuate from the site due to the south tower's collapse.
The photograph initially appeared in newspapers around the world, including on page 7 of The New York Times on September 12, 2001. The photo's caption read, "A person falls headfirst after jumping from the north tower of the World Trade Center. It was a horrific sight that was repeated in the moments after the planes struck the towers." It appeared only once in the Times because of criticism and anger against its use. Six years later, it appeared on page 1 of The New York Times Book Review on May 27, 2007.
I hope we're not trying to figure out who he is and more figure out who we are through watching that.
Gwendolyn, 9/11: The Falling Man
The identity of the subject of the photograph has never been officially confirmed. The large number of people trapped in the tower has made identifying the man in the 12 photos difficult.
After seeing a missing persons poster, reporter Peter Cheney suggested in the Canadian national newspaper The Globe and Mail that the man pictured in the photo may have been Norberto Hernandez, a pastry chef at Windows on the World, a restaurant located on the 106th floor of the North Tower. Some members of Hernandez's family initially agreed with Cheney, but after examining the entire photo sequence and noting details of his clothing, were no longer convinced.
"The Falling Man", an article about the photograph by American journalist Tom Junod, was published in the September 2003 issue of Esquire magazine. It was adapted into a documentary film by the same name. The article gave the possible identity of the falling man as Jonathan Briley, a 43-year-old sound engineer who worked at Windows on the World. His brother Alex is an original member of the 1970s disco group Village People. Briley had asthma and would have known he was in danger when smoke began to pour into the restaurant. He was initially identified by his brother, Timothy. Michael Lomonaco, the restaurant's executive chef, also suggested that the man was Briley based on his body type and clothes. In one of the photos, the Falling Man's shirt or white jacket was blown open and up, revealing an orange t-shirt similar to one shirt that Briley often wore. Briley's older sister Gwendolyn also suggested that he could be the victim. She told reporters of The Sunday Mirror, "When I first looked at the picture [...] and I saw it was a man—tall, slim—I said, 'If I didn't know any better, that could be Jonathan.'" Briley's remains were recovered the day after 9/11.
9/11: The Falling Man is a 2006 documentary film about the photo. It was made by American filmmaker Henry Singer and filmed by Richard Numeroff, a New York-based director of photography. The film is loosely based on Junod's Esquire story. It also drew its material from photographer Lyle Owerko's pictures of falling people. It debuted on March 16, 2006, on the British television network Channel 4, later made its North American premiere on Canada's CBC Newsworld on September 6, 2006, and has been broadcast in more than 30 countries. The U.S. premiere was September 10, 2007, on the Discovery Times Channel.
The novel Falling Man, by Don DeLillo, is about the September 11 attacks. The "falling man" in the novel is a performance artist recreating the events of the photograph. DeLillo says he was unfamiliar with the title of the picture when he named his book. The artist straps himself into a harness and jumps from an elevated structure in a high visibility area (such as a highway overpass), hanging in the pose of The Falling Man.
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