Home » A Wasted Life » 911- The Falling Man

911- The Falling Man

Today marks the 15th anniversary of September 11, 2001.  As usual, the stories and broadcasts of that day are being shown on television.

It’s a time for reflection and the underlying message, spoken and inferred, is to hug your children and tell your family members that you love them…because we never know when something might happen.

It is becoming more and more difficult for me to watch these recounts because I don’t have a husband or family members or children to hug anymore but I will watch them until I no longer can.

I watched a special titled “The Falling Man.”  A videographer captured a man falling from one of the towers.  It was a ten second descent that was going to end his life in a most gruesome way.

Only a handful of newspapers ran the picture the next day.  There was the expected response from readers, which was absolute outrage.
Why did it cause such outrage?  It was a reality of what happened that day.  Perhaps for some, it made it too real.

During the height of the Iraqi war, a marine was dragged through the street, hung from a bridge and set on fire.  Loser grappled with the decision of whether or not to run the picture.  His belief was that people needed to know what was happening over there.

George Bush wouldn’t allow pictures or videos of the soldiers being brought home.  The numbers of the dead were released but numbers are just numbers.  When you couple those numbers with flag-draped caskets, those numbers have an entirely different impact.

Loser decided to run the picture albeit inside and with a strong warning on the front page.  Like the falling man, the reaction was thunderous.  It was just too real.

I saw the picture of the marine and it took my breath away, even though I thought I was prepared for what I was going to see.  It was sickening.
Loser asked me what I thought and I said “it’s one of the most horrific things I have ever seen but if it was my son, I would want everybody to know what happened to my little boy.”

I don’t defend yellow journalism but I do defend freedom of the press.  There are still a few journalists and editors out there in that dying industry, who believe we have a right to know the truth…the truth about terrorism, the truth about war and the truth about the devastating results.

The picture of the falling man has never been run again.  An effort to identify him was met with great resistance, although it is believed that they now know his name.

Nobody knows if he jumped or fell.  We know that there were hundreds who suffered the same fate.  We know that there were people on the airplanes who struck the towers, the pentagon and drove into the ground in Pennsylvania.  We know there were people inside the towers when they collapsed.  We know there were hundreds of firefighters who died, trying to save lives.
We have heard their names read aloud.  We have seen them on the memorial.  Again, those are names.

When you attach a name to an image, I think it becomes too painful.  I believe that’s why there is such difficulty when we see the faces in the very instant when those people lost or were losing their lives, such as the marine or the falling man.

There were multiple requests to Loser to print pictures of the devil that apparently showed up in the smoke as the towers fell.  There was no outrage over those pictures…only requests to re-run them.

Would you want to know if the falling man was your loved one?  Would I want to know?  Yes, I would.  I think it would give me closure.  I could mourn the loss without the perennial hope that some day, through some miracle, he might come walking through the door.

When I was looking at the still shot of the falling man, it flashed through my mind “at the very moment that picture was taken, he was still alive.”

Let’s remember that day.  Let’s remember those lives that were lost.  If you have family members, hug them…call them…tell them how you feel….because you never know when they or you….might be gone.

26 thoughts on “911- The Falling Man

  1. That was beautifully written. Because I live so close to NYC, I have countless stories of people lost loved ones, or who lived through that day somehow. It’s just so heartbreaking, some of the stories.

    I remember a documentary on tv after the attack which was really about the FDNY response. And they had footage of the firefighters talking in the lobby of WTC prior to the collapse. As they talked, every few minutes you’d hear a thud as another body hit the pavement. Some times you’d see them through the lobby windows. I’ll never forget that. Ever.

    Yes the falling man is horrific. The attacks were horrific. The recorded phone calls, the senseless destruction. It was all horrific. I’ve never been one to hide from the truth. I don’t need to see it over and over again, but I needed to see it once. To know. Just to know.

    Love you. Xo

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    • I saw that one too. A firefighter was killed by a falling body. I heard the thumps but one of the most chilling (that I have never seen again) was a foreign correspondent walking along in the aftermath, taking pictures. He heard something and you could hear him talking as he was videoing. He said to himself “what is that? It can’t be birds.”
      It was the three hundred PASS devices from the buried firefighters. If they are motionless for more than thirty seconds, it goes off. I knew exactly what it was. It was just so very sad…especially to me.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Oh wow. Yikes. That day was so awful. Have you seen the documentary narrated by Tom Hanks about the boat lift? It’s so moving. Largest fastest boat lift in history by such a long shot. And I’m such a boater, know those waters. I imagined being out for a day of fishing having no idea and hearing the coast guard call to all boats to assist in evacuating Manhattan. 500,000 people evacuated that day. Amazing.

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  2. This was really well written and said, Laurel. And in fact it’s the only 9/11 story/post I plan on reading today, so I’m glad I chose yours. I self-censor a lot because some stories are just too painful. But that’s a decision I make for myself — I agree 100% with you that news needs be reported, period.

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  3. Hugs. So well said. I used to watch everything I could about this day but I believe I’ve gotten to the point where I can no longer watch. It’s still so painful. That said, I agree with your thoughts and that things like this and the soldiers should not be hidden. Id also want to know if he was my son or my family member and I’d want others to know as well. It shouldn’t be swept under the rug.

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    • I bet it was horrific. Seeing it in person as opposed to on the television are such different contrasts.
      When the firefighters were burned alive in Charleston, I saw it on tv first. When I went to the site, it was a completely different feeling…and view.
      I know you’ll never forget and this may sound hollow, but I am so sorry you had to witness it in person.

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