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

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September 18, 2009

Mistaken Memory?

I'm in Toronto for the imminent unveiling of the exhibition "Vanity Fair Portraits, 1913-2008" - the final leg of a three-continent, five-venue tour. The exhibition, jointly curated by Vanity Fair and the National Portrait Gallery, London, appears at the Royal Ontario Museum, through January 4, 2010, having broken attendance records in London and Edinburgh and drawing throngs in Los Angeles and Canberra, Australia.

While here, I received this enlightening e-mail.

From Lloyd Chang, Singapore:

Dear Mr Friend,

I have just begun reading your book Watching the World Change, which I find that I can especially appreciate as a serious amateur photographer.

Prior to purchasing your book (which takes a while for Amazon to ship to Singapore), I had read Tom Junod's article ["The Falling Man," concerning the identity of a Wolrd Trade tower worker who tumbled to his death on 9/11] in Esquire, and viewed the Henry Singer documentary based on it.

I then came across your blog. In 2006 and 2008, two readers wrote to you about a different falling man, not the one in [AP photographer] Richard Drew's photo. They seemed to recall an image of someone whose tie was flapping in the wind, an image of which "half of the background was building, about half the sky".

You mentioned in your blog that you had not been able to identify the image, though you had some recollection of it. I too recall something that resembles the description of this image.

I believe the photograph in question is "Victims Jump" by David Surowiecki, for Getty Images. Jumpers are seen across a clear sky, which occupies about a third of the frame.

It ran in the special commemorative issue of Time magazine, where it was given a full 2-page spread. I have a copy of it and the caption below it reads: ""You saw their ties flying up in the air," recalls David Burrell, a broker who watched several people fall of jump to their death."

The photograph can be seen HERE.

The thumbnail image, of course, is too small to make out the details, but in the 2-page spread in Time, the falling figures are quite clear. It is not evident that anybody's tie is flying in the wind, however, though it looks as if one of the jumper's socks is being torn away from his foot by the turbulence and has a trailing, wispy appearance. Perhaps the description in the caption mistakenly fused with the memory of the image.

I hope this helps to shed some light for you and your readers.

Best regards
Lloyd Chan

NOTE: This might be the reason several of us recalled a photo of a man with a "tie flying up": the caption, as Lloyd Chan suggests, may have "mistakenly fused with the memory of the image."

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