Thursday, March 16, 2006

The Falling Man

I know I probably put one-too-many melancholic entries online, but the world's is a stark, beautiful but intermittently terrifying place that some things you see/hear/experience just lodge in your mind and remain there for a long time to come.

And this just happens to be where I store some of those thoughts.

I watched a extremely moving documentary this evening entitled 9/11: The Falling Man. Different from most post 9/11 documentaries this focused on the effective censorship of images of those who jumped from the Twin Towers. One particular image has come to crystallise the horror of that day, and that is the photo has been dubbed The Falling Man. It's an image that's been effectively whitewashed from the history of that clear blue day in September.

But why?

In the days after it appeared, readers across America complained to the newspapers that printed this image that they felt deeply uncomfortable upon viewing it. If you remember the atmosphere days and weeks after the attacks, America was a wounded nation. Many couldn't bear to see the despair of the few; America needed the survivors and the heroes to heal, stand firm and rebuild in the face of terror. The Falling Man was quickly airbrushed from the history of the day. That's why when you see a retrospective feature on 9/11 now you'll generally see the towers, the debris, the survivors and the rescue workers... But not the jumpers.

One of the reporters researching the story of the jumpers had asked a city official months afterwards:

"How many jumped from the towers that day?"

"None."

"None?!"

"Some were blown out, some fell..."

Many journalists hold the Falling Man as an era-defining photo - the Eddie Adams shot of it's moment. Many say it should have won a Pulitzer. I wouldn't feel comfortable reproducing it here, this isn't the place, but simply do a Google image search for 'The Falling Man' and you see that image reproduced all over the world. You'll doubtless remember it, and realise that you haven't really seen it for over four-and-a-half years.

Read the article which partly inspired the programme if you can.

Ultimately the documentary came to a touching conclusion; the reporters who had investigated the identity of The Falling Man couldn't be entirely sure who he was, and they themselves agreed that it was probably best that the anonymity remained.

The Falling Man has become 9/11's Unknown Soldier.

5 comments:

who else said...

Maybe as one outside the States the image has been "put away" for while, but those of us there in the years after have been visited by this image in many contexts. I would much rather focus on the suffering we can prevent today; this poor man and his fellow dead are gone forever.

Ing said...

But if we don't remember, how can we learn? If we don't have a symbol, how can we teach?

who else said...

unfortunately symbols of this sort are in abundance. think of the 1000 years old conflicts in the world- is this the sort of symbol that helps them heal? or resets the violence?

Hanni said...

i looked it up on google and i cried for ages when i saw it guy. It is a symbol yeah and if it wernt my dad or brother or son, i would probably agree it was a good symbol. But, like i couldnt help thinking that if it was my reli then i would forever see it and wonder if they were still alive in the picture at that minute yeah, and be foreced to relive the way they died over and over.
The unknown soldier symbol, well at least he is dead and the statue aint real.

Ing said...

A symbol to some, another statistic to others. History is written by many different writers.