September 18, 2021

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War News Updates: Remembering the Falling Man

Richard Drew, AP

Tom Junod, Esquire: The falling man

An unforgettable story.

Do you remember this photograph? In the United States, people have pledged to ban it from the September 11, 2001 register. The story behind it, however, and the search for the man depicted in it, are our most intimate connection to the horror of that day. .

In the photo, it moves away from this land like an arrow. Although he has not chosen his destiny, he seems to have embraced him, in his last moments of life. If it wasn’t falling, it could very well fly. He looks relaxed, darting through the air. He seems at ease in the grip of an unimaginable movement. He doesn’t seem intimidated by the divine aspiration of gravity or what awaits him. His arms are at his side, only slightly stabilized. His left leg is bent at the knee, almost casually. His white shirt, or jacket, or suit stands free from his black pants. Her high black shoes are still at her feet. In all the other images, the people who did what he did, who jumped, seem to be struggling with horrific scale discrepancies. They are made frail by the backdrop of the towers, which loom like giants, and then by the event itself. Some of them are shirtless; their shoes fly off as they flail and fall; they look confused, as if trying to swim down the side of a mountain. The man in the photo, on the contrary, is perfectly vertical, and therefore is in agreement with the lines of the buildings behind him. He divides them, divides them in two: All to the left of him in the photo is the North Tower; all right, the south. Although unaware of the geometric balance it has achieved, it is the essential element in the creation of a new flag, a banner made entirely of steel bars that glisten in the sun. Some people who look at the picture see stoicism, willpower, a portrait of resignation; others see something else, something discordant and therefore terrible: freedom. There is something almost rebellious in the attitude of man, as if once faced with the inevitability of death, he decided to go on; as if it were a dart, a spear, determined to reach its end. It is, fifteen seconds after 9:41 am EST, the moment the photo is taken, in the clutches of pure physics, it accelerates to a speed of thirty-two feet per second squared. It will soon be traveling at over 150 miles per hour, and it’s upside down. In the photo it is frozen; in his life out of frame, he falls and continues to fall until he disappears.

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