Should You Watch The Falling Man?

DATELINE: Disturbing 9-11 Documentary

Falling Man

Many documentaries have come and gone about the horrific nightmare known as 9/11. Many we have simply skipped, avoided, refused to see, owing to its never-ending pain, its exhausting memory of a terrible day.

We deeply regret we chose to watch The Falling Man movie for reasons entirely personal. We cannot undo our decision, much as we may want.

Another in a long-line of disaster documentaries, this film drives home the horror: it is about one photo that shocked the world—and was censored from our consciousness for years thereafter.

The image of a man diving out of the 106th floor of Windows on the World restaurant made people angry like everything else on that day. Media chose not to show it for years thereafter.

This reverential movie, for those who can tolerate it, remains completely dedicated to the single horrific iconography, its emblematic importance, and an attempt to identify the individual who jumped (one of many).

We learn the New York City coroner’s office refuses to use that designation, “jumper.” In their eyes, people falling out of the World Trade Center were blow out by impact, were pushed, or fell by accident.

This movie will show you the image of the head-first dive, of one man frozen in time, half-way down the side of the WTC. It will show the image what seems 100 times in the course of an hour, and even uncover five or six other images of his descent, and even a close-up video version, showing his white shirt ripped away by the wind speed to reveal a yellow T-shirt.

Why? Well, they do finally have families whose relative likely was in the picture agree to look at the image—and one Latino family realizes to great relief that it is not their father, Norbert, a pastry chef, after all their heart-ache for more than a decade. They had never had the stomach to identify the man in the image until this movie. They realize it is someone else.

We will not show you that image in this blog, but it is available on the Internet.

The film discovers the likely identity of the jumper—and rationalizes that the entire film is meant, like a tomb for the Unknown Soldier, to represent all of a nation’s pain.

Like a proverbial train wreck, you cannot stop looking. The entire nightmare image will be ingrained on your brain forever.

You should think long and hard before watching this film. We cannot tell you not to watch.

We admire anyone who had the guts to jump.

We lost a former favorite student from our college teaching career on that fateful day. Peter Fry was likely up in the top-floor restaurant that morning having breakfast, and hearing about the conditions he suffered, even if he did not jump, is something we can never ‘un-see’ in our mind.

This open wound will never heal for those who lived through that hideous disaster. For the rest of the world, it is now simply history.