"[This book] embodies the Buddhist wisdom about change, life, and the
world more than anything written after the events of that day."
Robert Stone

August 2008 Archives

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August 19, 2008


In a New York Times story last weekend, by Alex Williams, Mrs. Laura Horn discussed how she spent a couple of days using Photoshop and, like some Kremlin retoucher from the 50s, successfully extracted her ex-husband from all of the pictures in their family photo album.

“In my own reality, I know that these things did happen,” Ms. Horn said. But “without him in them, I can display them. I can look at those pictures and think of the laughter we were sharing, the places we went to. This new reality is a lot more pleasant.”

...Well, she'll always have Paris.

August 16, 2008


An email from Susan Malus, of Brooklyn, New York….

Dear Mr. Friend,

I just stumbled onto your story about a Ms. Lucas contacting you [described in a November 15, 2006 blog post on this Website], searching for a photograph in The New York Times of a man falling from one of the WTC towers. I too have been searching for that photograph. I recall the shock and controversy about the Times' decision to use it and even a story about the process they went through in deciding. The man's features couldn't be made out, which was one reason in favor of using it.

I'm working on a novel about 9/11 and wanted to confirm something I made notes about several years ago regarding the photo. What I recall especially is a bright blue sky behind him and the awful beauty of the shot as contrasted with what its revelation, especially to those of us elsewhere. (I was in Bklyn., where I still live -- elsewhere enough when all transit shuts down.) I too saw the reference to a photo in Esquire and was very excited, only to be completely confused when I looked at it. The sky had made a powerful impression on me and there was no sky in that picture. And the man I recalled was not upside down.

I looked for Ms. Lucas' email address online but didn't find her listed in Port Chester. If you still have her email address or a phone number, could you pass this along to her? Or if you have found the answer, pass it along to me? Or both -- I'd like her to know how relieved I was to see her letter. Having searched just about everywhere, having not seen even a reference to the photo I remembered, I was starting to worry about the state of my mind. (It's hard enough to write a novel; finding an somewhat important reference disappear is just too bizarre.)

The Times publishes a front page for the first five days after 9/11. I looked at all of those and at the magazine section covers for September too, in case I'd gotten confused about which section carried it. I also did my best to search the 'News in Review' though that seemed to get stuck often. I've probably spent 15 hours searching just the paper itself for the photo and the article but still -- nothing. It's a mystery that I hope you will solve.

Thank you for your patience in reading this and, in advance, for any help you can provide.

Susan Malus

In 2006, I had a similar, if less vivid, recollection of such an image. Now, two years later, it is less distinct in my mind and I’m wondering if I saw such a scene on video, not in print. What's more, in Watching the World Change I have written at length about the other photograph she mentions, taken by Richard Drew, which was the subject of an award-winning essay in Esquire in by Tom Junod.

My response, via email, to Susan….

Dear Susan Malus,

As far as I can tell, my contacts were never able to find this photograph that you are referring to. Perhaps it was in an early edition. Perhaps it was in the Daily News or Post or Newsday. In any event, let me forward this to the man who was the deputy picture editor of The New York Times that day. He is a friend of mine. Let me see what he says. Sorry for my delay in responding.

All the best, David

Susan’s response…

Thank you for your help - I really appreciate it.

I'm certain it was the Times because of the background piece published later on why they chose it. My husband also recalls the photo with the sky behind it -- about half of the background was the building, about half the sky.

Also, I didn't buy or subscribe to other papers or news magazines. And three of us recall it being the Times; I'm really certain it was.

In the meantime, my grateful thanks for taking the time to follow up on this.

Susan Malus

My response…

Sorry to report that my friend (who was a picture editor at the Times in 2001) wrote me the following, when I forwarded him your email:

“I don't recall us running any image of a falling person except the Richard Drew picture. That's a fairly vivid memory only because I remember the discussion about whether or not to use such a picture at all.”

I’m afraid this doesn’t shed any light at all.

Would you mind if I posted your email on my book blog in the coming week or so and perhaps other readers would respond?

Thanks, David

Susan’s response…

Please do reprint my letter. And thanks again. Maybe someone will shed light on this.

By the way, the Drew photo, which was also on the Esquire website, was a much closer shot of the person; if you knew him, you might almost recognize him. And I believe it's on the Esquire site that the story is told about a family who lost someone in the NY attacks. Some of them did think they recognized him while others were furious at the very idea and the two camps stopped speaking.

I've asked other friends about this and they all remember, without any prompting, that there was both building and sky and that the falling figure was tiny.


So... Does anyone out there have any insight on this subject?



After reading my book, Michele C. Lucas of Port Chester, New York, sent a compelling letter about her fascination with a single photo taken on September 11, one that she remembers spotting in a newspaper or magazine shortly after the attacks.

In her "Image of the Falling Man," as she has come to think of it, a figure is shown in freefall, descending from one of the World Trade towers. His tie, she recalls, is fluttering in the air. The picture, as you can read in her letter, has become something of an obsession to her. And after I telephoned her to discuss her letter, she agreed to let me post it on line, in the hope that a reader of the book or a visitor to this blog might know of a place on the Internet or in print that might have published this picture.

I, too, remember having seen just such a picture. In my mind’s eye, it is a still photograph, though I may actually be remembering a videotape. Nikki Stern, whose husband perished on September 11, told me that she remembered a similar photograph, possibly printed in Time magazine, though when I called her, to follow up on Michele Lucas’s query, she admitted she may have been recalling Richard Drew’s famous “Falling Man” image, showing a man—without a tie—plummeting head-first that day. (An account in USA Today, published on September 2, 2002, describes an eyewitness who sees a man falling from one of the towers with “his tie flapping in the wind.”)

And yet, having surfed the Web and having sifted through my shelf of photographs and of 9/11-related books, I couldn’t find the photograph that so haunts the writer of the letter, reprinted here.

Is there anyone out there would can shed light – or point her in the right direction? If so, please e-mail me at dfriend@vf.com.

Letter from Michele Lucas….

As soon as I heard about your book, Watching The World Change, I put 
everything aside to read it…. I was hoping you, who have seen so many images of 9/11, might be able to help me find the one among millions that I seek.

On September 12, 2001, I opened The New York Times to a picture of a man falling from one of the towers. I had not expected such a picture as I turned the page, and so was stunned and horrified. I stared at the picture, feeling as the photographer Richard Drew was quoted as saying in your book, “He is you and me.” When I closed the paper that day I said that I never wanted to see such a picture again.

But I kept the newspaper and put it away with the issues of Time and Newsweek and The New York Times magazine and a few other accounts of the day. Why I kept these things I do not know. For my grandchildren, even though I absurdly never want them to know about this event or any other like it?

Although I never looked at the picture in the Times again, I was never able to get the image of the Falling Man out of my mind. It was vivid, it was full of detail, it was poignant and horrifying all at once. He was indeed me. And when I prayed for him I was praying for all the victims of 9/11. He personified for me the suffering of that day.

[Some time] later, I was listening to the NPR evening news, to an interview with a writer [Tom Junod] about an article he had written for the current issue of Esquire about The Falling Man whose picture appeared in The New York Times on September 12, 2001. I had vowed never to look at the picture again, yet I rushed immediately to buy the issue of Esquire. I wanted to know about the man I had held fast for so long. I steeled myself to turn the pages of the magazine, to see again the man falling, falling, falling.

But as bad as I expected the moment to be, when I saw the picture again it was so much worse. This was not My Falling Man. I ran to the closet to retrieve the bo where I had kept my accounts of 9/11. I found the Times of September 12th, and I was as certain as I had ever been about anything, that the writer of the article in Esquire was wrong, that when I turned the page there he would be - My Falling Man. But it was not My Falling Man. It was Esquire’s Falling Man. I felt that I had gone crazy. Frantically I went through the rest of the material I had saved searching for the man who belonged to me. He was nowhere.

Over the next days I searched the Internet, but I did not find him. Everything I saw was at such a distance and nothing matched what I remembered. For months I continued to search, but I never found him. I asked friends, but no one remembered seeing such a man. I felt as though I had lost a relative or a good friend. I still felt a little crazy.

The man was a businessman, you could tell that by what he wore - dark suit pants, a white dress shirt. His hair was dark, his skin was white. He appeared to be young rather than old, though I’m not sure why. He was falling legs down, head up, his body leaned somewhat to his right and his head was turned to the left just enough so you could not make out his features. The most poignant aspect, at least to me, was his tie, which was swooshed up over his left shoulder. I even remember the tie to be striped, though, even if I ever saw such a photo, I don’t know how I could see that much detail.

The thing was, I could see him that morning, putting on that tie, getting ready to go to work the same as he did most every weekday morning. The tie made him seem so real, so human, so heroic almost. Here was this beautiful fall day, and still he was putting on a tie and going to work, going to do his job, going to contribute to the economic scheme of things, when he might rather be going fishing or to the beach or sailing on such a gorgeous day.

As time went by and I could not locate My Falling Man, I convinced myself that I had seen him in a dream. After all, we were so bombarded with images on 9/11 and in the days that followed, I could have had a very vivid dream about a falling man and thought that it was real. I had just about convinced myself when I related my story to yet another friend, who told me that she remembered the man, she remembered him because of the tie, and I was back to square one. She feels that she saw him on television, but I don’t know. All the TV shots I saw of people falling were at too great a distance. I feel that the picture I remember must have been taken with the zoom lens of a still camera.

Why do I care so much? I’m not sure. I’m way past doubting my sanity which was definitely an issue at the beginning. I think I care because I have had this man in my life for so long, and he stands for all those who suffered such an atrocious death simply because they had gone to work that day. If I relegate him to a dream when he really existed, then he has been forgotten and I do him such a disservice. In some strange, possibly morbid way, I miss him.

On page 73 of your book Nikki Stern speaks of a picture of a man falling with his tie floating up. The columnist who ran this picture is mentioned but not named. Perhaps you could tell me who it was. Or perhaps you could just recommend another avenue I could pursue. I don’t intend to spend my life searching, but your book has given me some hope that perhaps My Falling Man is there somewhere among all the images of 9/11. Of course, I didn’t realize until I read your book that there were so many images in existence where my man could be hiding, so I know it is a long shot that you would remember one among so many. But again, there is that tie, something about the tie, that commands your attention, that makes the poor man memorable, so maybe, maybe.

...You have written a fine book, fascinating and moving. I am not, at this stage of my life, much of a weeper, but I actually burst out into tears on page 200 where you quoted John Labriola as saying, “the one conclusion I came to on 9/11 is that people in the stairwell--and this is my Catholic upbringing talking--really were in a state of grace.” I responded with my Catholic upbringing to the concept of grace at work on that day. Grace was hard to see, but I must believe that it was there. Your book gives us a whole different perspective on the event without in any way losing the emotional and spiritual aspects of what happened.

I thank you so much for bearing with me this far (if indeed you have)...

Best regards,
Michele C. Lucas

(The writer goes on to say that she remembers encountering me from time to time when we both worked at Life magazine in the early 1980, myself as a reporter, she in the copy department, I believe. But I'm sorry to say that I don't recall her.)

August 1, 2008


In response to a rash of injuries and scuffles that have resulted when paparazzi packs gather to stalk stars, the Los Angeles City Council has created a task force which convened a hearing this week to study whether new ordnances should be established to limit the photographers’ movements – or, possibly, to require paparazzi to register for licenses.

The chief of the LAPD, William J. Bratton, reacting to the hubbub, called the hearing “a total waste of time,” according to The New York Times. “If you notice, since Britney started wearing clothes and behaving; Paris is out of town not bothering anybody, thank God; and, evidently, Lindsay Lohan has gone gay, we don’t seem to have much of an issue.”