Mystery of 'The Falling Man' who plunged from World Trade Centre on 9/11… and we still don't know his name 20 years on

CAPTURED on camera falling straight down as he plunged to his death from the World Trade Centre – there are few more horrific images from 9/11.

The so-called "Falling Man" was snapped by Associated Press photographer Richard Drew as he fell from the North Tower on September 11, 2001 – yet 20 years on, we still don't know his name.

Drew had been shooting a maternity fashion show nearby when he heard a plane had just hit the World Trade Centre.

By the time the veteran photographer, now 74, arrived at the scene of devastation, the air was so filled with smoke and debris that he had no idea a second plane had hit the South Tower until he was told by a police officer.

As he watched the horror unfold, he saw what other onlookers had noticed within minutes of the first attack – people falling from the buildings.

Drew took dozens of photos on the darkest day in American history, but one more than any other would be remembered by millions across the world forever.

Taken at 9.41am, the chilling image showed a man plunging head-first towards the ground, his legs pointed skyward, and the steel exterior of the North Tower in the background.

Many attempts have been made to identify the Falling Man over the last 20 years, but none have so far proved successful.

Twenty years after the attack, the photograph still manages to capture the horror of the day.

"I didn't take the picture. The camera took the picture of the falling man," Drew told CBS.

"And when these people were falling, I would then put my finger on the trigger of the camera and I'd hold the camera up, and I'd photograph and follow them going down, and then the camera would open and close and take the pictures as they were going down.

"I have, I think, eight or nine frames of this gentleman falling, and the camera just happened to cycle in that time when he was completely vertical.

"I didn't see that picture really until I got back to the office and then started looking at my stuff on my laptop. I didn't see it."

The image was printed by The New York Times the day after the attacks, but was labelled by critics as "exploitative" and "voyeuristic", and it was two years before it appeared in another major publication.

In a number of the images Drew took, the man can be seen to have a goatee and to be wearing black trousers and a white tunic, like the clothes of a restaurant worker.

He is also thought to be Latino.

The search for the man's identity has focused on the restaurants of the North Tower, which collectively are known to have lost at least 100 workers.

One man most often cited as a candidate is Norberto Hernandez, a pastry chef who worked at Windows on the World, a restaurant on the 106th floor.

Shown Drew's picture, Hernandez's brother and sister both identified him as its subject, but other members of his family have refuted the claim.

The man in the image can also be seen to be wearing an orange shirt beneath his tunic, and Hernandez's wife has denied he ever wore orange.

But the detail has been used to identify Jonathan Briley, a sound engineer who also worked at Windows on the World, as a possible candidate.

His brother Timothy has said he wore an orange shirt so frequently it became a joked between them.

"When are you going to get rid of that orange shirt, Slim?" Timothy would ask him.

Let him represent everyone [for whom] that was their fate that day

Although the man's face isn't clear, for many the image humanised the victims of the attacks.

Drew said the purpose of the photograph was to "show them what happened in that moment in time, that they weren't there to see".

"I have that privilege that I can do that," he said.

"They can come to their own conclusion about the 'Falling Man' also, and that's what that's about."

Drew himself has said he likes to think of the man in the photograph as "the unknown soldier".

"Let him represent everyone [for whom] that was their fate that day,” he told the Telegraph.

"I hope people can look at it now and accept that it’s a part of what happened that day.

"We saw pictures of the rescuers, we saw pictures of the planes hitting the building, we saw the recovery effort.

"And now we can also try to accept that as part of what really happened that day."

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