The Falling Man Documentary
The Falling Man is a photograph of a man who jumped from the upper floors of the Towers before they collapsed, and was the most controversial picture taken ten years ago today. Nobody much ever wanted to see or talk about the pictures of the people who made the unthinkable decision to jump from the Towers, and the reasoning seems obvious; sensory overload of horror which previously had been beyond all imagining. The world had not really ever seen anything like that in all the rich and varied history of human atrocities. People have jumped from upper stories of burning buildings before, but never ones so tall, knowing that those who jumped made the decision aware that they could not possibly survive. On that day, the prospect was sheer overkill of overkill. Of course there is stigma and discomfort surrounding voluntary self-annihilation, but it appears to me that imagining the mental state and contemplating the conditions that led to their decision was simply too much to process. And clearly, these were homicides, not suicides.
If you have the heart for it, the below full-length documentary is highly recommended viewing, an inordinately sensitive and moving account of this picture’s effect and a journalist’s attempt to identify and thereby honor the man in the picture. His identity is indeed discovered, although there will never be any way to confirm it for sure, he sure looks like him to me. However, I find photographer Richard Drew’s position that the picture should stand for the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier completely appropriate, and the suspected victim’s sister’s most gracious comment that more important than knowing about the man in picture, is what the picture leads us to know about ourselves.