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Who Was The Falling Man?

One of the saddest images to be taken on 9/11 was the image of the falling man.

If you have never seen it here it is:

The notable image showed the world that the flames and smoke from within the World Trade Center were so horrible that many people would rather jump to their deaths than stay another second inside of the building.

The man in the photo has never been identified but there have been many investigative journalists who have reported the falling man was Noberto Hernandez but others claim it is Jonathan Briley.

Noberto Hernandez was a chef at Windows on the World, a restaurant that was located on the 106th floor of the North Tower.

Family members of Hernandez are not convinced he was the falling man.

Jonathan Briley is the other man who has been identified as possibly being the falling man.

Briley was a 43-year-old sound engineer at Windows on the World

Per Esquire:

In most American Newspapers, the photograph that Richard Drew took of the Falling Man ran once and never again. Papers all over the country, from the Fort Worth Star-Telegram to the Memphis Commercial Appeal to The Denver Post, were forced to defend themselves against charges that they exploited a man’s death, stripped him of his dignity, invaded his privacy, turned tragedy into leering pornography. Most letters of complaint stated the obvious: that someone seeing the picture had to know who it was. Still, even as Drew’s photograph became at once iconic and impermissible, its subject remained unnamed.

An editor at the Toronto Globe and Mail assigned a reporter named Peter Cheney to solve the mystery. Cheney at first despaired of his task; the entire city, after all, was wallpapered with Kinkoed flyers advertising the faces of the missing and the lost and the dead. Then he applied himself, sending the digital photograph to a shop that clarified and enhanced it. Now information emerged: It appeared to him that the man was most likely not black but dark-skinned, probably Latino. He wore a goatee. And the white shirt billowing from his black pants was not a shirt but rather appeared to be a tunic of some sort, the kind of jacket a restaurant worker wears.

Windows on the World, the restaurant at the top of the North Tower, lost seventy-nine of its employees on September 11, as well as ninety-one of its patrons. It was likely that the Falling Man numbered among them. But which one was he? Over dinner, Cheney spent an evening discussing this question with friends, then said goodnight and walked through Times Square. It was after midnight, eight days after the attacks. The missing posters were still everywhere, but Cheney was able to focus on one that seemed to present itself to him—a poster portraying a man who worked at Windows as a pastry chef, who was dressed in a white tunic, who wore a goatee, who was Latino. His name was Norberto Hernandez. He lived in Queens. Cheney took the enhanced print of the Richard Drew photograph to the family, in particular to Norberto Hernandez’s brother Tino and sister Milagros. They said yes, that was Norberto. Milagros had watched footage of the people jumping on that terrible morning, before the television stations stopped showing it. She had seen one of the jumpers distinguished by the grace of his fall—by his resemblance to an Olympic diver—and surmised that he had to be her brother.

Now she saw, and she knew. All that remained was for Peter Cheney to confirm the identification with Norberto’s wife and his three daughters. They did not want to talk to him, especially after Norberto’s remains were found and identified by the stamp of his DNA—a torso, an arm. So he went to the funeral. He brought his print of Drew’s photograph with him and showed it to Jacqueline Hernandez, the oldest of Norberto’s three daughters. She looked briefly at the picture, then at Cheney, and ordered him to leave.

What Cheney remembers her saying, in her anger, in her offended grief: “That piece of shit is not my father.”

Here’s what Yahoo reported:

The identity of the subject of the photograph has never been officially confirmed. This is due mainly to the large number of people trapped within the North Tower; the falling man could have been any one of them. Some estimates suggest that at least 200 people fell or jumped to their deaths, and officials could not recover or identify the bodies of those forced out of the buildings.

However, attempts to identify the person in the images have been made, and a number of theories have been put forward. One suggestion is that the man in the pictures is Norberto Hernandez, a pastry chef at the Windows on the World restaurant located on the 106th floor. Canadian national newspaper reporter Peter Cheney first suggested the man could have been Hernandez in The Globe and Mail, and family members initially agreed with him. But after examining the photo sequence and noting details of his clothing, they were no longer convinced.

Another theory suggests the man is Jonathan Briley, a 43-year-old sound engineer who also worked at Windows on the World, and the brother of Alex Briley, the original “G.I.” member of 1970s disco group, Village People. Briley was initially identified by the restaurant’s executive chef, who suggested the man was Jonathan based on his body type and clothes – the Falling Man’s shirt is blown open and up in one of the photos, revealing a t-shirt similar to one Briley wore.

Briley’s older sister Gwendolyn also suggested that he could be the victim, telling The Sunday Mirror: “When I first looked at the picture… and I saw it was a man – tall, slim – I said, ‘If I didn’t know any better, that could be Jonathan.'”


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