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The Man Who Fell like a Spinning Arrow – Remembering the Victims of 9/11

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Mizzou chapter.

Photo reference: The Falling Man

20 years. 240 months. 7,300 days. 2,977 lives. And one photo of a “Falling Man.”

It appeared to be any other late-summer day. With a hint of fall in the wind and not a single cloud in the sky, no one could have imagined that such a beautiful morning could become one of the most tragic days in American history. As the nation settled in to enjoy their morning coffee and watch the daily news, New York City would soon be under attack and the nation would be in grave terror. 

Now, even after two decades, America is still left picking up the pieces of the terror attacks that took place on September 11, 2001. As we remember that day and the towers that once stood, we can take a look back at the lives that were lost both that morning and in the years following. 

8:46 a.m. –  A Boeing 757 of American Airlines flight 11 crashes into the North Tower (WTC 1), leaving New York City in shock and confusion. At that very moment, the city stopped… 16 minutes later, the world stopped with them.

As the fire and smoke of the North Tower were broadcast around the world, United Airlines flight 175 plummeted at 590 mph into the South Tower (WTC 2) and the question of whether or not the horrific incident was an accidental catastrophe or a malicious attack was answered. 

By the time it was 10:28 a.m., both towers of the World Trade Center had fallen and the world had gone silent. 

After the devastation and horror of that day, stories and photos of the aftermath circulated for years to come. Many photos showed the towers up in flames or the cloud of ash engulfing the massive city. But, no piece of media represented the pure extent of the horror and fear of that day than the photograph taken of “The Falling Man”, by Richard Drew – a photo-journalist for the Associated Press.

This photo, according to Drew in a video interview with TIME Magazine is “probably one of the only photos that shows someone dying that day.”

Unlike most photos that are published in the wake of horrific disasters, “The Falling Man” isn’t gory, bloody or even violent. The photo is, in some ways, peacefully gruesome. 

And that is what makes it so hard to look at and so hard to look away.

The image of “The Falling Man,” who’s identity still remains unknown although there is speculation, is not loud with threatening scenes of fire and destruction. It is still and quiet. It is apocalyptic and lonely. It is relatable and, according to Drew in an interview with CBS, those who see it can “identify with it.” He states that people who see the photo think, “That could be me.” For those who have stared at the image, feelings of grief and immense sorrow inevitably follow. It puts you in the place of the man who had to choose a fate of death by fire, death by destruction or death by choice. 

“The Falling Man” is still a controversial image, today. First published early the following morning on September 12, 2001 in the New York Times; the photo symbolized, to some, respect and honor for the loss of life that day. But, for many others, the photo was a visual reminder of the death, fear and carnage of that morning.

But, what makes the photo appear almost sinister is not the actual action of the man choosing to jump, it is the positioning of his body that makes you reel in discomfort.

If you look at the photo, you see that he didn’t choose to jump, he chose to die in the most peaceful and painless route he could find. Closely resembling a pointed down arrow, we see the man accepting the cards he was dealt and taking the heart-shattering leap to exit the world gracefully. 

This is why so many have to turn their heads when the photo appears before them. 

As a human being, much of the driving force in our lives relies on hope. Hope for the future, hope for love, hope for success, hope for money, fame or anything else that motivates you to live another day. That is the fuel that keeps our engines going. So, to see another human being… Another soul who has family, friends, a past and future, with no hope left, that is the most tragic part. What makes it even more heartbreaking is that this one photo of a simple man represents the other 2,976 victimes who were forced to leave this earth feeling the same way. 

No hope and fear for the inevitable.

Looking back on this horrific day, it pains me to see the nation in such anguish. As a four month and one day old baby girl from Missouri, this attack on our soil has played a major role in my upbringing. Whether it be school history classes or travel security, my life and the lives of so many others were significantly altered in the aftermath of 9/11. And, to this day, when the anniversary of that morning roles around, I can feel the pain of my parents and my neighbors and their parents and their neighbors who were forced to watch New York City be consumed in ash and dust. 

20 years have come and gone since the world went silent.

I hope that each and every one of you remember this day and the man who was forced to choose his fate. The man who plunged towards Earth like a spinning arrow. The man who represents the thousands who were dealt the wrong hand. We stand with each of them and the brave souls who continue to seek justice both for the lives that were lost that morning and the lives that still remain today. 

20 years have come and gone since the world went silent, but the world will never be silent again. 

Hi! My name is Olivia Johnson and I am a journalism major at the University of Missouri! I was born and raised in Kansas City, but I live full-time in Columbia now! I love to write, research and sing (super random... I know). I have two dogs (a Goldendoodle named Larry and a Bernedoodle named Sully) and a cat (a Himalayan named Julius)! I love everything beauty, fashion, and lifestyle, so I love HER and the wide range of topics I can talk about here! Make sure you follow me on all of my social media accounts listed down below and make sure to follow the rest of the Her Campus team! Happy reading! Instagram: oliviagalejohnson Twitter: _OliviaJohnson_ LinkedIn: Olivia Johnson - https://www.linkedin.com/in/olivia-johnson-49739a206/