Like Stendhal below, I don’t have much to say or add on this particular day, ten years after 9/11. I will merely note that one aspect of the WTC that I find particularly compelling is those who jumped from the towers. One of the best pieces of art written about the attacks is this article in Esquire by Tom Junod about The Falling Man – the name given to the unidentified man in one of the most famous images captured that day:
You might be surprised to learn that official documents recorded all jumpers’ deaths as homicides and not as suicides. You might also be surprised to learn that estimates of the number of jumpers vary but credibly go as high as 200. That means that as many as 7-8% of those who died in the WTC that day died by jumping, and in the North Tower alone it was more like 16%. One of my favorite passages is when Junod exposes the seemingly elegant, symmetrical grace of the fall as a lie:
Photographs lie. Even great photographs. Especially great photographs. The Falling Man in Richard Drew’s picture fell in the manner suggested by the photograph for only a fraction of a second, and then kept falling. The photograph functioned as a study of doomed verticality, a fantasia of straight lines, with a human being slivered at the center, like a spike. In truth, however, the Falling Man fell with neither the precision of an arrow nor the grace of an Olympic diver. He fell like everyone else, like all the other jumpers — trying to hold on to the life he was leaving, which is to say that he fell desperately, inelegantly. In Drew’s famous photograph, his humanity is in accord with the lines of the buildings. In the rest of the sequence — the eleven outtakes — his humanity stands apart. He is not augmented by aesthetics; he is merely human, and his humanity, startled and in some cases horizontal, obliterates everything else in the frame.