September 11… The Image I Can’t Forget

What shocked and upset me most on September 11 and the days afterward was the photograph… everyone knows, probably, what one I’m talking about. The photograph of the falling man, the man who jumped to his death from the towers. It ran in the papers only once, and there was very brief video footage on one news channel that showed people jumping and falling from one of the towers. Watching that short film made me throw up; one of the few times I’ve ever vomited when I wasn’t sick or hung over. I immediately blocked the image from my mind. I was horrified that the picture was published in the paper.

Falling Man

Two years later, I can finally think about it. Those images made the tragedy real, and drove home the reality that it wasn’t just glass and steel but human bodies being destroyed. Human lives being lost. And at that time… It was unbearable to see.

Now I’m glad that that Richard Drew was able to take the photo of the falling man. Because it’s a record of what really happened. And it reminds me of what’s important and because it helps to honor his life, and honor the way he chose to die.

It’s also compelling that people are now, two years later, really able to examine the people who jumped from the towers, the one aspect of the tragedy that no one has really been able to face or talk about. Many people still won’t talk about them as “jumpers” but insist to themselves that they fell or were blown from the building. Because acknowledging that they jumped means to put oneself in their shoes, to imagine making that terrible choice. How horrible it must have been, whatever was happening up there, that they chose to die instead by jumping from a great height.

With all the lies the George Bush has told, with the way he has twisted the tragedy of September 11, 2001, used it to consolidate power and manipulate the world, seeing that image again reminded me of what’s true, what’s real, what’s important. It reminds me that these people, too, were Americans, the ones who jumped. And to them, we have some responsibility.

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