Friday, March 6, 2009

The Falling Man

This picture has haunted the minds of most Americans just as frequently as have the other images associated with September 11th, 2001. It is iconic of the despair felt by the nation; the image of the lone man leaving behind one terrible fate only in order to embrace another one. The picture stirs up all kinds of feelings for myself as well as most others that witness it; even those few people that weren't in either tower at the time of the attacks tend to feel the vibes of helplessness and sheer desperation that most of those trapped inside surely felt. This picture, like others of its kind that represent the largest times of suffering for humanity, inspires plenty of emotions and feelings that one can't help but endure. The feelings and thoughts running through my mind, however, are clearly different compared to those voiced by Esquire magazine.
While Esquire doesn't hesitate to paint this man as something more than he is, as a sort of symbol of American freedom, I have to point out some obvious facts. According to Tom Junod, the writer of the article, this man didn't choose his fate- but at the last moment he clearly "embraced it." Junod also doesn't hesitate to mention that at the last minute this man epitomizes the spirit of rebelliousness. The man is fighting physics, a law that can't be broken, in a fight he is destined to fail, but damn it he is still doing it.
After a bunch of fancy wordplay and imagery, I have to call shenanigans. While this image is certainly iconic, and represents the attitudes and sheer chaos and destruction that walks hand-in-hand with the attacks committed on September 11th, I feel like the writer of the article for Esquire is tarnishing this man's image. He is being painted to be some kind of American hero, as some kind of rebel-without-a-cause. James Dean meets world tragedy. In all honesty, all the writer seems to do for me is demean the man's memory by building him up to be something he is not. He is a man that jumped off of the WTC building to die in a preferable way to the alternative. He isn't someone who found himself where he was and decided to accept his fate while still not giving in. "Arms cocked rebelliously" turns into a man plummeting towards the ground in the last seconds of his life. He wasn't trying to make a statement, so why turn him into one?
No wonder the family responded so angrily. Because the writer tried to turn this man into something more than what he was, the last image and memory anyone has of him is false. Not only is it false, but it is a country-wide lie. While I do agree that the American people needed a hero to turn to during this time, changing a man's final memory to fit other purposes isn't right.

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