September 12, 2021 by archyde
Twenty years have passed since the attack on the Twin Towers and Richard Drew, the photographer who took the iconic image “Falling man”(“ The falling man ”), he does not stop so much in remembering what the sequence of twelve shots captured in the ten seconds that the fall lasted, as in a detail that his camera did not register.
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“I was one block from the North Tower and couldn’t see where they were falling. But I will never be able to forget the noise that bodies made when they hit the ground”Drew noted in a zoom interview with THE NATION from New York, where he continues to work for the Associated Press (AP).
Despite the years that have passed, Drew cannot find the precise words to define that dry noise, which continues to disturb him. “My wife says that I use my camera as a filter to cover what I feel”, he confesses.
Among the 2,600 victims left by the falls of the North and South Towers, the forensic authorities did not distinguish those who died as a result of the collapse and those who jumped from the buildings, but video and photographic records estimate that the number of people who jumped out of the windows was between 100 and 200 people. Most would be from the North Tower, hit at 8:46 a.m. by an American Airlines plane between floors 94 and 98.
Meanwhile, the United Airlines plane hit the South Tower at 9:02 am between floors 78 and 84.
Those 16 minutes apart gave time for a greater evacuation in the South Tower, which also collapsed half an hour earlier. And the impact, almost twenty stories higher in the first tower, concentrated the smoke and fire much more on what was left to the top on the 110th floor, and surely heightened the victims’ feeling of certain death.
“I think that the most disturbing thing for people when they look at the photo is not so much the image itself of the falling man, that it is not violent; no blood or deformed bodies can be seen. What is disturbing is to think about what one would do in such a situation where the only possible decision is to choose how to die, since there were no survivors above the point of impact of the planes, “said Drew.
Karen Juday junto to Richard Pecorella
The morning of September 11 had started routinely for Drew, then 54, after the AP agency assigned him photographic coverage of a pregnant women’s fashion show in Bryant Park, about four miles from the Twin Towers. . After the first impact, he received a call from the agency to move to the World Trade Center. He took the subway to Chambers Street station, about 400 meters from the towers, and then walked closer until he was a hundred meters away, where he could already see the two buildings on fire.
“I was standing next to a New York City police officer and a nurse. Suddenly the woman said: ‘Oh God, look at that!’, and the three of us looked up and saw people falling from the building. Instinctively I took my camera and started taking pictures, while listening to the noise made by the bodies hitting the ground ”, Drew remembered.
Due to the high number of victims, it was impossible to accurately identify the “Falling Man” from the 12 photographs Drew took during his jump, which occurred at 9.41, 47 minutes before the collapse of that tower. Because of his clothing, it is speculated that he could be the chef Norberto Hernandez, who was working on Windows of the World on the 106th floor, or the sound engineer Jonathan Briley, who also performed tasks there. But nothing is certain. Paradoxically, the two names, Hernández and Briley, appear together in the fountain that today remembers the thousands of victims there.
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Drew remembered THE NATION another story that he helped to reconstruct thanks to his various photographs of the people who jumped off the towers. In 2006, Richard Pecorella, whose 52-year-old girlfriend, Karen Juday, worked on the 101st floor, contacted the AP agency. Pecorella had seen some pictures. in which he could recognize his girlfriend among the people waving their handkerchiefs from the windows of the North Tower and he was obsessed with knowing how he had died, so he asked Drew to see the pictures of the people who jumped.
Pecorella looks at the photo of Karen’s jump with Richard Drew
“Pecorella came to our agency with a very precise description of the clothes his girlfriend was wearing that day, based on the photos in which he had seen her leaning out of the window waving her handkerchief. AND, After going through several images, we finally found Karen’s photo among the people who jumped. It was very shocking, but it also allowed him to close the story. “
Finally Drew reflects on the impact of his iconic photography. “Until I returned to the agency that morning, I did not realize the images that had been recorded. I think the symmetry of the Falling Man with the lines of the building, and even the apparent calm and resignation With which it is falling. It is almost an image of harmony. What is not seen is what gives the photo drama. It is the record of just an instant in a person’s life. But whoever looks at the image knows that, unfortunately, it was his final moment”.
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