Tuesday, September 09, 2003

The photos of Sept. 11 that most haunted me were of people falling from 100 stories to their deaths.

The images were available one after the other on the photo wires, on news service Web sites. I stared at those photos until they were etched in my mind, knowing I could never forget them. Knowing I should never forget them.

I wasn't alone.
No one ever got used to it; no one who saw it wished to see it again, although, of course, many saw it again. Each jumper, no matter how many there were, brought fresh horror, elicited shock, tested the spirit, struck a lasting blow.

Esquire takes an intense look at one of the photos that captured that horror. AP photographer Richard Drew took it after fleeing from a photo shoot of pregnant models. He doesn't apologize for the shot, or the emotion it evokes.

And the author of the story, Tom Junod, makes the point that Americans have been coddled by the media. The images that many most identify with the pain of that day are the images we are not allowed to see. Most papers ran one photo on one day and then never again. The television networks ran the images only until the brass found out; then they ran them with faces blurred; then they censored them completely.
What distinguishes the pictures of the jumpers from the pictures that have come before is that we—we Americans—are being asked to discriminate on their behalf. What distinguishes them, historically, is that we, as patriotic Americans, have agreed not to look at them. Dozens, scores, maybe hundreds of people died by leaping from a burning building, and we have somehow taken it upon ourselves to deem their deaths unworthy of witness—because we have somehow deemed the act of witness, in this one regard, unworthy of us.
This discussion, and the story of the search for one jumper's identity, provide a fascinating read. Carve out a half-hour to fly through it and consider.


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