Richard Drew Tells the Poignant Story Behind “The Falling Man” Photo

Nearly two decades after the 9/11 attacks, “The Falling Man” by Richard Drew remains one of the most unforgettable images from the tragedy.

There were many scenes of chaos, destruction, and panic captured during the 9/11 attacks, but one of the most haunting images is actually a quiet one. When Richard Drew pointed his camera up to one of the towers, among the horrors he captured were people falling from it. However, he didn’t know until later that one of the frames would turn out to become a symbol of the tragedy of every life lost that day.

TIME has included Richard Drew’s now iconic photograph in their selection of 100 most influential photographs of all time. In the 2016 video below by TIME, the Associated Press photographer recalls the harrowing events that surrounded the taking of the now-iconic photo.

When Drew got to the scene, the first thing he saw was the two towers on fire and covered in smoke. He proceeded to take his photos of the people on the streets and the burning building when he saw the trapped people falling down from it. He took shot after shot of them as they came down, one of them ended up to be the photo that would later come to be known as “The Falling Man.”

“It’s a very quiet photograph. It’s not like a lot of other violent photographs from other disasters,” he said of his poignant capture. “There’s no blood, there’s no guts, nobody getting shot. But, people react to it in a way that they feel they can relate to this photograph.”

The power of this photograph, as Drew also noted, lies in viewers being able to feel that if they were in the same situation, they might have made the same choice that the man in the photo made. It’s also probably one of the few photos that show someone dying that day — and a gripping reminder of the heartbreaking choices thrust upon countless innocent lives like the unidentified man in the photo. Therefore, it’s not surprising that the photo, despite being disturbing to some, made rounds in different publications, including Esquire, where the photo earned its now-famous title.

Check out the TIME website to get the full multimedia experience of “The Falling Man” and other iconic photos in TIME‘s 100 most influential images of all time.

Screenshot image from the video