Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Jonathan Briley Believed to be ‘The Falling Man’ in 9/11 Photo

*Even though we’re a couple of days removed from the 16th anniversary of 9/11, there is one story that must be told. One that you might not be aware of.

On that fateful morning, September 11, 2001, many people in the North and South Towers of the World Trade Center were trapped on the floors above the point of impact where the planes crashed into the buildings.

As a last resort, many people opted to jump to their deaths (the New Your medical examiner’s office lists them as “fell” rather than “jumped” to their deaths).

One image captured by Associated Press photographer Richard Drew became known as The Falling Man.” He has since been identified by family and co-workers as Jonathan Briley.

Jonathan Briley
Jonathan Briley

According to Wikipedia, Briley – a 43-year old resident of Mount Vernon, New York –  was an audio technician for Windows on the World. His brother Alex was an original member of the ‘70’s disco group Village People.

Journalist Tom Junod wrote an article about “The Falling Man” photo that was published in the September 2003 issue of Esquire magazine. The story was later adapted into a documentary (please see video below).

I wrote the following poem shortly after the tragic event. Although it’s been published before, it takes on a new meaning by adding a face to it. It’s a tribute to Briley and all the others who met the same fate.


I heard the roaring of the plane

so close I held my breath

then an explosive crash announced

the arrival of death.


The tremendous boom, the crunch, the grind

drowned out my desperate scream

great fireballs, heat so intense

I prayed it was a dream.


Fear took control – what shall I do

perish in flames or flee

I paced and cried, I cried and paced

time running out on me.


No where to run, no where to hide

so far above the ground

my last wish for my loved ones was

that my remains be found.


I jumped into Eternity

Hell blazing at my heels

I pleaded, God have mercy…

knowing my fate was sealed.

Larry Buford is a Los Angeles-based freelance writer. Author of “Things Are Gettin’ Outta Hand” (Steuben Pub)   [email protected]


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