09-11-11

THE MORNING of September 11, 2001, I had to report to the newsroom. We were, of course, thousands of miles away from the chaos and devastation unfolding on the East Coast, but there was an eerie feeling walking North on Spring Street as everyone else — employees or CalTrans, City Hall — were heading home at a quick pace. All “non-essential” employees were banned from the building, sent home. There we were, walking against the current. What might happen in Los Angeles still felt like an unfinished thought. It made be anxious, but this was an “all hands” moment, and there was something about the order that newsroom and the duty of collecting information My beat at the time was human behavior and I was struck by the image of The Falling Man.” In the first few hours we saw images — silhouettes mostly — of people stopped by the shutter in midair against the backdrop of rows of high-rise windows. I pitched the story to an editor who poo-pooed it, only to find that the Washington Post would do a piece on the psychological impact of watching these free-floating souls soon after. This image — and those like them that were printed in next-day editions of the paper, that were part of the CNN and network news rotations (until they were pulled) — are the ones that I often think of first — even before those images of the ripped and jagged remnants of the towers in the early hours. It’s something about the impact and aftermath that this shot conveys, that still triggers something raw and deep and hard to pin-point — ten years gone.

This image is from an Esquire piece that Tom Junod wrote a couple of years afterward in which he contemplates the deeper after-image of this symbol.

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