“The Falling Man,” the iconic picture that came out of the many tragic stories of 9/11 ten years ago, is still as haunting today as the day it was taken. The picture conveys the desperation that the terrorism of 9/11 caused one lone American man, out of the thousands whose lives were lost that day. While some speculate they know his identity, he is still officially an unknown man.
Richard Drew, the Associated Press photographer who took this picture, says the man is an “unknown soldier” in a different kind of war. Knowing the falling man’s name is not as important as what this man stands for, says Drew. “There’s no blood, there is no violence, just a quite picture of this man falling,” is how Drew describes this to the Mirror UK.
These last moments of this man’s life, as he is caught on camera falling to his death, has become a symbol of the plight of those innocent people trapped in a high-rise with flames all around them and nowhere to go. This man is one of 200 that jumped to their death that day. The 200 were left with an awful, unthinkable decision of choosing the way they were to die. The choices were both horrific, burn in flames or jump to their death.
Grieving relatives of a man who perished in the 9/11 Twin Tower attacks believe that this picture is that of their loved one, Jonathan Biley. While it could be Biley, who worked in the Tower as a sound engineer, it is not known for sure.
Biley wore a uniform of a black trousers and a white shirt and he would often wear his favorite old orange T-shirt underneath his shirt. Drew took 12 shots of the falling man that day and in the last frame, the man’s shirt blew off and revealed an orange T-shirt. While Biley’s sister, Gwendolyn Biley, says “no one will ever know for sure, but I thought of him as a man that took his life in his hands for just a second.”
Drew, who was in N.Y.C. covering fashion week at the time of the 9/11 attacks, was covering a show when the first plane hit the North Tower at 8:46 am. He said he received a “frantic call” from his editor, which sent him running to the World Trade Center. This is when he saw people doing the unthinkable, jumping to their death. He pointed his camera and took the pictures.
The falling man's picture was published briefly that day and then pulled from the media for fear that it would traumatize the family of this unknown man. A decade later Drew says, “I hope people will now be able to accept it’s part of what happened that day.”
Image source: Wikipedia