The Falling Man


“The Falling Man” is a photograph taken by Richard Drew at 9:41:15 a.m., on September 11, 2001 of a man falling from the World Trade Center during the September 11 attacks in New York City. The man in the photohraph remains unknown. The picture is deceptive, however, as it suggest that man was falling straight down, however, this is just one of many photographs of his fall. It is evident from these other pictures that he tumbling out of control.

Many people find the image disturbing because it is a horrific image of what people had to resort to during the attacks. The subject was one of some 200 people (called “jumpers” by the press) trapped on the upper floors of the skyscraper that apparently resorted to jump rather than die from the fire and smoke. In the United States, people have taken pains to banish it from the 9/11 records. Newspaper stories commenting on the image have attracted a barrage of criticism from readers. In most American newspapers, the photograph ran once and never again. However, as Esquire wrote, the story behind it and the search for the man pictured in it, may be our most intimate connection to the horror of that day.

The photo has become a digitalized “Tomb of the Unknown Soldier” not only for the jumpers but also for everyone who perished that day.

24 thoughts on “The Falling Man

  1. This picture is discussed at length in the fictional September 11th aftermath novel by Don Delillo “Falling Man”. A great read.

  2. This may sound a bit weird, but when I watch the opening credits of AMC’s Mad Men it shocks me every time because I cannot help be reminded of the horror of 911. I’m surprised I’ve never heard anyone else make the same connection.

    Your website is just something. Thank you.

  3. i remember watching FOX and they filmed this guy jumping and landing live. It was a huge WFT moment.

  4. I find it disgusting that people would critizie the printing of this photo. This IS 9/11. Just ignoring it or trying to forget it won’t make it go away. They should show 9/11 footage to small children to teach them what religious hate, and all hate for that matter, will do to people. This is a powerful image to teach us a powerful lesson and it should be used to stop future occurances.

  5. what were they thinking attacking America,
    i agree with James show kids the horrors of the world and the evil with in it so they know good from evil

    • Wait a sec. What are you saying? Showing kids images like these to teach them that muslims are evil? It sounds an awful lot like that.

  6. I don’t want to open up a whole can of worms, but there are a couple of things about this particular version of the photo that seem odd. There are two black tick-marks in the right half of the image that are clearly copied and pasted, and there’s an odd rectangular section in the bottom-left that appears to have been shifted a couple of pixels to the left. It looks almost as if the right-most 150 pixels have been duplicated in order to extend the picture, but after running it through Photoshop I’m baffled as to how or why. Perhaps it’s a side-effect of the transmission process (I’m guessing it was shot with a digital SLR and sent to the newspaper with a cellphone).

    • Yeah it is photoshoped so that the picture is uniform. The original has more of hte left side then the right, and I guess the author wanted to make it look symmetrical. I don’t see why you should be crapping your pants about it, it’s not that big of a deal…

      • Settle down buddy…its a photography blog and he was asking questions as to the specifics of the photograph…sheeesh

    • The things you referred to as ‘black ticks’ are obviously pieces of paper, didn’t you see all the pieces of paper that were falling to the floor? Watch a documentary.

    • I realize that this is two years old, but I just found this article as the 11th anniversary is just a couple of days away.

      I have a copy of the original photo from 2001. On the right side, there is only one ‘tick’ mark. It definitely isn’t part of the building and it’s too big to be a piece of paper. There are only 8 of the darker vertical lines, and the single ‘tick’ is on the furthest light portion, next to the final dark line. In this picture, there are 18 dark vertical lines. Also in this picture, the bottom of the 11th dark vertical line is distorted, and there is no distortion in the original.

      On the left side there is no ‘odd rectangular section.’ There are only 7 of the darker vertical lines on the original while this photo has 11.

      I think you’re right, Ashley, the pixels have been duplicated to extend this picture. And I don’t think you opened a can of worms, you simply asked a question. In the 2003 Esquire article, Tom Junod writes that Photographer Richard Drew used a 200mm lens and only left the scene “when he heard the rumbling of the South Tower and witnessed, through the winnowing exclusivity of his lens, its collapse. He was engulfed in a mobile ruin, but he grabbed a mask from an ambulance and photographed the top of the North Tower ‘exploding like a mushroom.’” When he got back to the AP office, he chose this photo out of all his others when he ran his disc through his laptop. The image was then sent to the AP’s server. It wasn’t sent via cell phone. Considering what was happening that day, I believe that the ‘tick’ is actually debris on his lens. It’s the only thing that makes sense to me, but then again, I’ve been wrong before.

      One more tidbit of info – the ‘falling man’ has been positively identified as Jonathan Briley who worked at Windows of the World. Miraculously, he was found intact. He was positively identified by his brother by the shoes he regularly wore.

  7. Miranda, that is definitely the work of the clone tool on Photoshop and not two identical pieces of paper. And Natasha, I don’t think Ashley was ‘crapping her pants’, I think she was merely pointing it out and makes a valid point in asking why a photograph that is used as historic fact needs to be altered.

  8. I’m only 14, and this is my first seeing this photo. It is a tragic sight to behold, knowing you would rather fall to your death. Then again, this perfect seems elegant to me. Like he’s flying. He knows where’s going.. This comment wasn’t intended to hurt or harm anyone. Just a simple thought.

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