The Falling Man" refers to a photograph taken by Associated Press photographer Richard Drew, depicting a man falling from the North Tower of the World Trade Center at 9:41:15 a.m. during the September 11 attacks in New York City. The subject of the image — whose identity remains uncertain, although attempts have been made to identify him — was one of the people trapped on the upper floors of the skyscraper who apparently chose to jump rather than die from the fire and smoke. As many as 200 people jumped to their deaths that day; there was no time to recover or identify those who were forced to jump prior to the collapse of the towers. Officially, all deaths in the attacks except those of the hijackers were ruled to be homicides (as opposed to suicides), and the New York City medical examiner's office stated that it does not classify the people who fell to their deaths on September 11 as "jumpers": "A 'jumper' is somebody who goes to the office in the morning knowing that they will commit suicide... These people were forced out by the smoke and flames or blown out."
This photograph at right is somewhat deceptive, as it gives the impression that the man is falling straight down. However, this is just one of a dozen photographs of his fall, and in other photographs it is evident that he is tumbling through the air.
The photographer has noted that, in at least two cases, newspaper stories commenting on the image have attracted a barrage of criticism from readers who found the image "disturbing." Regarding the social and cultural significance of 'The Falling Man', theologian Mark D. Thompson of Moore Theological College says that "perhaps the most powerful image of despair at the beginning of the twenty-first century is not found in art, or literature, or even popular music. It is found in a single photographPublication history
The photograph initially appeared in newspapers around the world, including on page 7 of The New York Times on September 12, 2001. 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.
"The Falling Man" is also the title of an article about the photograph by Tom Junod that appeared in the September 2003 issue of Esquire magazine and was later made into a documentary film. The article and film reveal who "The Falling Man" actually may have been: Jonathan Briley. Briley worked on the top floor of the north tower of the World Trade Center. It was there, in the restaurant, that he decided to jump. He was an asthmatic and knew he would not survive when smoke began to pour into the restaurant
Because of the number of "jumpers," identifying the man captured in the twelve photos was not an easy task. At least 200 people either jumped or fell to their deaths.
Initially, the faller was identified by The Globe and Mail reporter Peter Cheney as Norberto Hernandez, but when the family looked at the whole series of pictures, it was clear that it was not Hernandez. Three other families claimed that he was their relative, but after careful analysis of the photo this was disproved.
Five years after the attacks, Jonathan Briley, a 43-year-old employee of the Windows on the World restaurant, was identified by chef Michael Lomonaco as The Falling Man. Briley was a sound engineer who lived in Mount Vernon, New York and worked in the North Tower restaurant. According to the film, the victim was initially identified by his brother in the morgue by the victim's hands and shoes. Lomonaco claims that he was able to identify Briley by his clothes and body-type. In one of the pictures, The Falling Man's clothes were blown away, revealing an orange undershirt similar to the shirt that Briley wore to work almost every day. His older sister, Gwendolyn, asserted he was wearing that shirt on the day of the attack. 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.'" A charity has been set up for Briley's family, and many news programs have aired his story as being the one of The Falling Man. However, the identity of The Falling Man has never been officially confirmed.
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