LightRocket via Getty Images

Every September 11, Americans pause to commemorate the anniversary of the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center in New York City and the Pentagon in D.C.

The World Trade Center's falling people symbolized the horror of the day for writer Tom Junod who was convinced that America should know their names.

Primera Hora/Getty Images

Junod undertook the mission of identifying the fallen Americans -- the forgotten 9/11 victims that no one wants to talk about.

"I felt that the idea of people jumping. I felt that the falling man had been sort of pushed to the side," Junod said in a 2006 documentary titled 9/11: The Falling Man.

"There is an element of exclusion; that he died improperly. That we want to remember this day for its heroism. And whether we think of the jumpers as heroic or not, they should not be excluded from the consecrated ground of American soil because they died in a way that made us uncomfortable."

Junod was surprised that no one came forward to claim the fallen man as one of their own family members.

When the photo of the falling man was published in newspapers on September 12, Americans vented their outrage against the photo editors for selecting that particular image to embody the horrific events of 9/11.

The photo editors withheld the series of images of the falling man tumbling and flailing desperately at the sky. Instead, they chose the one photo that made the falling man appear peaceful, composed, and willingly accepting his fate as if he had decided to check out with dignity.

No photo

Jonathan Eric Briley, 43, was a sound engineer for the Windows On the World restaurant in the North tower -- the first tower to be hit by a hijacked plane that day.

According to Windows On the World head Chef Michael Lamonica who analyzed AP photographer Richard Drew's photos, Jonathan fit the body type, size and complexion of the iconic falling man in the photos.

Lamonica described Jonathan as a "hard working, dedicated, good guy with a great sense of humor."

Jonathan's sister Gwendolyn, who was Jonathan's closest sibling, said she never thought the unfortunate figure in the photo was her brother. "I thought of him as a man that just took his life in his hand for just that second," she said.

Still in denial, Gwendolyn identified the clothing that the man wore in the photo as items her brother owned. But she stopped short of confirming it was him.

"I hope we're not trying to figure out who he is, and more, figure out who we are through watching."

Pool/Getty Images

Richard Pecorella was a family member who did come forward to identify one of the fallen: his wife Karen.

Mr. Pecorella said that when the media began posting images online of the jumpers, he searched and searched through the grainy photos until he found her.

For Mr. Pecorella it became an obsession to identify his wife among the condemned souls clinging to the windows of the burning towers.

Pool/Getty Images

"It had to be so intense up there and there was no other way out," he said. "It was either burn alive or go quickly. I envision that it had to be the towering inferno... Do you suffocate to death or do you jump? I think it was brave to do that."

He added: "I know it's her because, the clothes and the shape. I would know her from the shadow. She had a blue sweater top on, sleeveless, and cream color pants.

Pool/Getty Images

"It wasn't painful for me. It really wasn't," he recalled of his search for Karen. "I finally have something I can hold onto. This is where she was, and this is how she died -- she jumped. She didn't burn up. She didn't become dust."

"Nothing was more painful than losing her," he said. "But not knowing how I lost her was even more painful. So now that I believe that that's what took place, it's easier for me to talk about it. And if she jumped, she jumped."


    So this is trending on Twitter as well and I still only have one thing to say about it.

  • Yardgirl

    RIP to all the fallen souls, may they be resting in peace!!!

  • iWasteTime

    My son asked us this morning what we were doing on this day 18 years ago.
    I told him, your daddy had me up LATE the night before so when I got up to go to class and put my TV on I thought it was a movie. My dumb ass drove to the college and was like "WOW, light traffic" I walk into the building as the 1st tower was coming down and my boy (RIP) was in shambles because his mother worked in the towers. He asked her for some money that morning, for school, made her late and she got out the subway and up to the street while the 1st tower was coming down. It was a long day. I didn't see my own mother for like 2 days because they asked all medical personnel to stay in the city.


    I was a sophomore at Howard. I remember this day like it was yesterday ??????

  • KarmaBackAround

    I was in 8th grade.. i had jus gotten back from ny 2 weeks prior from manhattan on a back to school shoppin trip....i toured manhattan, madison square garden and world trade center..i remember my teacher rolling the dinosaur back tv in the room and she was crying so hard..turn on the tv and world trade center was in flames..i got home and my mom jus hugged me and cried.. WE WILL NEVER FORGET..God bless all the victims families, they'll live on forever!

  • Jethro
  • Coy little wink

    Very good writeup intern.

    I was in first year of law school. Rushing to drop my daughter off at my grandma's before class. She was like have you seen the news...a plane flew into a building... I was like Grandma I'm late I can't talk. got to my class hadn't even turned on the radio. Saw a classmate constitutional law professor crying...

    Those who jumped were very brave

  • Renee26

    Chills... RIP to everyone that lost their lives due to this attack

    Am I the only person that feels weird when they write the date 9/11??

  • Jethro

    I was calling my mom to wish her a Happy Birthday while watching the 2nd plane hit live, thinking it was a rerun of the first.

  • Kyss Sims

    Me too..I was a sophomore at Bowie State University. When I woke up and my roommate told me what happened I thought she was joking. Being from NYC my heart sank. RIP to those fallen Angels ??????

  • Renee26

    I was sitting in my bedroom watching TV when the news came on showing the first building on fire. I thought it was fake, so I called my friend and we watched the news together trying to see if it was real. As I saw the 2nd plane hit I realized it was very real. I went and grabbed my infant son from his crib and hugged him soo tight. When they said the Pentagon was also under attack I was scared that the crazies would be hitting all major cities. I cried hard watching it all unravel and felt overwhelmingly sad for a few weeks afterwards.

    Never forget

  • SingleGalCrazyWorld

    I was in college had a late class and put my dorm phone on silent to sleep in...the RA banged on my door and said our school was going into lockdown because the PA plane had crashed and they weren't sure there were other planes...she kept rocking back and forth saying "the towers fell". People were crying trying to get to trains to get home but Amtrak was experiencing a delay.... 8 of us piled into a Neon and drove back to Philly in a usual 1 hour 30 minute trip took us 5 1/2 hours just silence and crying all the way... Classes were cancelled the rest of the week...There are some days in life that give you goosebumps and tears and 9/11 is one of them...

  • luVn_liFe…

    America wants to be Patriotic in Remembrance Only .. JON STEWART a damn comedian turned activist had to go to Congress just a few months ago to get legislation passed to get First Responders health coverage,help and to demand not to cut the 9/11 Victums fund. #Merrica

  • Mr.LeBrickJames

    Homeboy just cant help himself. That's why he's going to end up being a 1-term president.

  • Facts and Receipts

    I was 24 years old. At work that day and had been late bc my then 6 year old gave me a hard time that morning. Got to work and was trying to slink into the office I shared with another colleague and noticed…NOBODY was in their office as I walked by. Our office was next to the last one down a LONG hallway. Strange AF. My desk was by the window so I quick lifted one blind and was like yep, parking lot has the normal amount of cars in it. Oh well. I shrugged it off, dropped my stuff and logged in and then grabbed my cup to go get coffee.

    Well lo and damn behold..the whole OFFICE was crammed into our kitchen and mailroom area. Looking at what I thought was the news. My boss at the time saw me looking confused and grabbed my hand. And she said it. She was the ONLIEST one who even spoke out loud bc it was DEAD quiet when I walked in. After she blurted out a plane had just hit the WTC, like 3-4 folks moaned and cried out. Dude who I shared the office with (Jeff) grabbed my coffee cup and poured me some and motioned for me to sit down where he had been sitting. We all sat there. For hours watching the coverage. Crying. But pretty much in dead silence. Finally at around noon the Director turned the TVs off, 1 x 1 (was 3 total) and said we are closed for the rest of today, yall are free to go, and we are closed tomorrow too. Go to the grocery store, to the bank, put gas in your cars, collect your kids and GO HOME-- and don’t come out for the rest of the day. And turned and walked out the kitchen.

  • Well Well Well ??

    I was in high school when 9/11 happened and even watched the second plane hit the Twin Towers(our class was watching the news because of the first plane hitting the towers) 9/11 really changed so much for this country. From how we viewed terrorism to how we fly. I know its something I'll never forget...

  • Jethro
  • Roderick2011

    I had just started my good government job in NJ in July 2001.
    I was supposed to have had temporary housing on the Army base where the building I worked in was located but when I arrived my boss told me that there was no housing available and that every place was occupied.
    Fast forward less than four months I am sitting at my desk online taking courses and goofing off and I notice this picture of something on top of one of the twin towers and then when I refreshed the page the picture had disappeared.
    To this day I still believe it was either an inside job or the W Administration knew about the hijacking and allowed it to happen and the invasion of Afghanistan had been in the works for months before 9/11.

  • Facts and Receipts

    just silence and crying
    To this DAY that is ALL I can ever tell my kids when they ask me what was it like afterwards. It was like the whole damn WORLD went SILENT. It was so EERIE. I went to the grocery store, the bank and few other places before I went home. But they were SILENT TOO.

  • hottlanta

    Chrissy handled that for me quite well n told no lies.

  • hottlanta

    Healing words from my president

  • Let them eat cake

    i believe that too.

  • luVn_liFe…

    Ive always believed this too.

  • SpillyNillie

    911 occurred during my first semester of college. I remember learning of the first plane hitting the tower on the radio as I drove to class. I couldn't quite grasp what was going on. When I arrived to my LIT 101 class, the professor pulled a TV to the front of the class. I then learned the gravity of the situation as I watched the second plane hit. We watched the news in every one of my classes that day. I'll never forget it.

  • stav

    This was one terrible atrocity, if only this country felt this way about the atrocity ..Slavery..Never forget!

  • pynkrose407

    This day just always bring chills and heartache...i was living in Atlanta at the time and remeber my best friend watching the news and when i seen it we both thought it was fake until the second happen and we just froze in horror and i left and went to work only to be sent home and the the other attacks happened on the pentagon i started freaking out more cause my aunt worked there, just a day that never leaves ur memory and heart and for all that lost their lives that day they will never be forgotten sorry if i dont them by name but my prayers are always covering their familes and friends and i just HATE that that day even happened :(

  • Starburst

    I was on a Caribbean cruise from September 7-13, 2001 and when I returned home from my trip my answering machine were full of messages from my Commander in the Army and my fellow soldiers ordering me to get to the unit as soon as possible. I had no time to unpack or nothing only to put on my military uniform and get in my car. Once I got to the unit I got issued my M-16 weapon with ammunition and off we all got into our military trucks and headed to Ground Zero where I was on my feet for 23 hours a day for two weeks. I've never seen anything like it in my life and hope I never do. The one thing that came out of that tragedy was that New Yorkers were so kind and giving to each other. I got free socks, food, clothing, massages, and other stuff that I still have in storage. Some even prayed for me, but I prayed for the people that perished and their families. It was tragic.

  • Starburst

    Yes, kudos to Jon for helping to extend the VCF to the year 2090. Now, we can continue to get compensated for our illnesses and for those that have perished without the cut, but full payment.

  • MJF

    I live in New York and this day is always frightening and saddening at the same time. Moment of silence for 9/11. We came together more than ever then but we're so divided right now smh...

  • Starburst

    No, I feel weird when 9/11 comes around. I hope I don't have PTSD.

  • Renee26

    Thank you for your service

  • luVn_liFe…

    Jon Stewart gave them the BIZNESS! He told him the same ones I have to sit here and beg off you to give these first responders their due will be the FIRST To Tweet #NEVERFORGET on 9/11

  • Starburst

    Thank you for the acknowledgment. It feels good to hear or read when someone speak those words. Thank you!!!

  • Renee26

    You might... It can be mild

  • Michelle Peele

    I was in North Carolina. I was driving on my way to Barnes and Nobles to pick up a book when I heard the news. Having lived in New York years before, I didn't really think too much of it. There was always something going on in the Big Apple. When i finally sat down and watched the news, I was floored. Not only did I used to work in the WTC, had I stayed at that job (and in NYC), i would have been walking through the towers when that plane hit.

  • Sushi

    I remember this day like yesterday, I had just made it home from New York that Monday 09/10, and on 09/11, I was like let me go in and do my payroll for my agents, I remember getting out of the shower and watching the 1st plane hit, I thought it was a new Spider-Man movie, until I sat down to watch it and come to find out this was real..... OUR GOVERNMENT AND OTHER LEADERS HAVE blood ON THEIR HANDS...……..

  • SingleGalCrazyWorld

    It makes me so sad...the months after 9/11 I felt like the nation for once was united...People of all races, sexual orientation, ethnicity were literally in each other spaces hugging, crying and just trying to make sense of what happened...its sad to see that 18 years later we are more divided as a nation then we were pre 9/11...

  • Sokka

    Still can't believe our government got away with this

  • SingleGalCrazyWorld

    IDK if you ever seen The Watchmen movie but the premise of 9/11 is kinda eerie... Ozymandias created a war to unite the earth and have one enemy which was Mr. Manhattan....

  • Lady Chatterly’s Lover

    Had a dr. Appt so late walking into my job at USA Today. Everyone gathered around watching news on TV. Suddenly a loud boom. Looked out 21st floor windows and we could see the Pentagon on fire. I grabbed my purse and ran down the stairs. Jumped on subway and went home. 1st building collapsing when I went thru door. Surreal the next day at work. Grief counselors advised staffers (not me) they Do NOT need permission to leave a work environment if they FEEL it is unsafe. So many people DIED because they were assured it was safe despite one building being aflame.
    Lesson learned - we must take charge of our own destiny. Prayers, peace and blessings to everyone affected or lost someone on this sorrowful day.??????

  • IyanlaVanzantoftheInterWebs

    O share the same sentiments ?

  • Facts and Receipts

    This! You better say it. Extra sad

  • IyanlaVanzantoftheInterWebs


  • Lady Chatterly’s Lover

    Glad to see you survived Dorian.


    Amen ??

  • IyanlaVanzantoftheInterWebs

    Was there
    experienced it first hand
    couldn't find my mother for 12 hours
    Still remember the GOD AWFUL smell that lingered south of 59th street in Manhattan for AT LEAST a year?

    May ALL of the people who perished RIP??

    To ALL of the volunteers who are sick with debilitating diseases because of their sacrifices, THANK YOU, Keep strong and may GOD be with you??

    Lastly, to ALL of the people who lost Loved ones on this day in 2001, please accept my Condolences to Eternity??

    This post is too much for me but wanted to drop in and say a little something?

  • Facts and Receipts

    God bless you hun.

  • wigmon68

    Thats utter BS and don't dishonor this day and those that sacrificed. The 9/11 Victims Fund reauthorization was highly politicized and shouldn't take any part in the discussion about what occurred 18 years ago today.

  • Mr.LeBrickJames

    As a former New Yorker who's walked past those buildings so many times, it's just crazy to me to think they're gone. It's just haunting to see those two big squares at the memorial site, in the same spot where the twin towers used to be.
    I didn't have any relatives who were lost on 9/11,but I have some friends who lost loved ones. Today is always a tough for me, so I cant even imagine how difficult it must be for them. RIP again to all the victims, and prayers for the families.

  • Starburst

    Thank you Renee!

  • MJF


  • Live&Learn

    I was in the 6th grade when this happened. We had a student in my class who had family in New York at the time and she was devastated. All of us were, even though we were so young and didn’t know exactly what was going on.

  • Let them eat cake

    Judgement is at hand.

  • Don’t touch my laptop!

    I remember I was in jr high school when an announcement was made that our parents would be picking us up. My home room teacher literally started bugging out. He said he was in the Vietnam war, and started telling the classroom stories of how all his friends were murdered in the war...really nasty stories. He must of had PTSD. I'll never forget that day.

  • Jefferey Franklin

    RIP to those who died, Fuck America's government for what it did to the American people..........

    On a side note, yall make sure yall run to the polls to vote next year..........

  • Roderick2011

    9/11/2001 was on a Tuesday.

  • Sushi

    Your right, will edit ty

  • Roderick2011

    Thanks for being concerned.
    Yes, it was close but Dorian finally made that turn to the north.
    Unfortunately the Bahamas weren't so lucky.

  • Roderick2011

    I started watching that movie on Netflix but never finished it nor did I know the premise.
    I will find it and finish it after your comment. Thanks.

  • Roderick2011

    I never followed up to see if those soldiers who were housed on that military based ended up in Afghanistan.

  • Parent

    The most devastating day in NYC.

  • Coffee1st

    Walked into my sister's living room, her tv was already on. Reporter saying something about a plane hitting a building.
    Thought to myself, "Another coked up pilot in the cockpit."
    Then, right before my eyes, another plane hit the other building.
    "Wait.....hole up?????"
    Additional info began pouring in. Other planes have crashed. Noticed moms said not a word the whole time, just watching.
    Finally got in the car and I'm rambling.
    She looks at me square in the eyes and says:
    Bush did this.

    Smh. The images of ppl jumping from that building is something i try to block. My thoughts and prayers are with all of those directly affected and with those who lost loved ones.

  • Mark

    we dont hold a moment of silence on April 19th For the okc victims because a white man killed those children.I'm from NYC and it's time to let these people rest not constantly used for political points.