The falling man is not just about the man. It's history now. Richard Drew, an Associated Press photographer, did not have any idea that he would capture "the history".
Everyone is aware of the tragedy of 9/11. First, a plane crashed on the North Tower of the Twin towers in New York, and after sixteen minutes, another plane crashed on the South tower.
The casual day, that brought a Nightmare
Before this tragedy, it was a random day for Drew and the people of New York. Drew was covering a maternity fashion week right in the middle of the city when a reporter from CNN informed him about the incident. He took a risk and went to the subway. When he got out, he saw that the World Trade center was showing a scene of an absolute tragedy. He could not see anything but the two buildings covered in smoke and fire after exploding like a mushroom. He could see different objects quivering and falling. It was a total mess. The scene was heartwrenching and tragic as people started jumping from the towers to save their lives but in vain. They jumped out from the broken windows first and then broke the windows themselves to escape the dangerous fire and destruction to breathe just once more before they die. Their only other choice was suffocation to death from the smoke. Many of the survivors of that day say that people falling from the building were among the most shocking, evocative, and haunting memories of that day. The North tower stayed sound for 102 minutes after the plane had hit it. People started jumping continuously and constantly from the North tower to save their lives and protect themselves from the huge destruction. It was a spontaneous action by them as people in that state can not think of anything, but escaping the situation no matter where they are headed is safer not. Therefore, a lot of people jumped off the towers, and it was so scary to see. They were either forced to jump out because of the flame and fire or were thrown out by the disaster. Some people jumped alone; some jumped in the groups of two or three. People on the ground were gasping with unimaginable fear as bodies began to fell from the towers. A mother gave fake consolation to her child by saying", dear, maybe they are just birds." The most distressful moment was the fact that they were not unconscious or dead while falling. Their bodies burst, and death was instant as they hit the ground.
The Fall into the Abyss
Drew was standing there watching the horror unfold. He started taking pictures of the events when both the towers had been hit by the planes and were puffing up smoke. Both the towers crumbled, and people continued to fall out. He was taking pictures, and such photos were being shown in various news channels. It was that moment when he took a picture that depicted the tragedy like no other; "The falling man." Out of so many pictures (almost 200) published, one picture was most controversial and utterly awful for people; "The falling man." On that day of mass tragedy, The falling man was one of the most popular pictures that shows someone's encounter with death. Initially, it was described as disturbing, exploitative, and voyeuristic. People stopped the photographers from taking pictures on the ground to show some ethics and human decency. They did not want them to invade the privacy and dignity of the bodies. Later, different descriptions were added to it. It seemed like The falling man was calm and accepted fate. In all the other pictures, terror, denial, and panic could be seen in people. Their belongings could be seen flying off. They were in a pure disastrous mess, but The falling man appeared to be the most casual of all. Some people could see strong willpower portrayed by the falling man to try something which could help him live. He seemed so rebellious as facing destiny/death. He fell like an arrow. He kept falling with an incredible velocity until he hit the ground and disappeared.
The man falling like an arrow
Revealing the Truth
Later, the truth was revealed. Photographs lie! There was nothing casual with him. He was in the same state of agony and fear as all other people. He did not fall with the accuracy of an arrow or anything. He fell like everyone else, miserably and inelegantly, trying to save his life.
The man falling from one of the Twin Towers
The falling man's actual identity remained undefined until a series of pictures were published, one of which showed his white jacket being ripped off by the wind. He had a dark cast to his skin and was wearing a goatee. People thought he might be a food service worker and probably a Latino. But later, it was found out that many of the dead were Latino, black men or Indians with short dark hair. So these facts were not decisive of who The falling man was. After some time, it was noted that The falling man was wearing a bright orange-colored shirt under his top. So, now the family members can remember if he was someone who owned an orange shirt and wore to work that morning. After so many attempts by various families to identify The falling man failed, one family appeared. It was Jonathan Briley's family who worked at Windows on the World. Timothy went to identify his brother as the FBI called the family. He recognized him by his black shoes. Jonathan's sister told them that he had asthma, and in the smoke, he would have done anything to breathe. Timothy also knew Jonathan sometimes wore an orange T-shirt under his top to work and almost everywhere.
Jonathan Briley might be the Falling Man from the shreds of evidence found. The falling man was "The unknown soldier", representing all those for whom it was a cruel matter of fate that day and representing everyone who jumped out of fear, terror, or hopes to meet their families.