INTERVIEW: Capturing The Falling Man

September 11, 2021

SmartHER With Photojournalist Richard Drew

“That’s what I do everyday. I record history.”

Photojournalist Richard Drew has spent more than five decades with the Associated Press. On the morning of September 11th, 2001, while on assignment for Fashion Week in New York City, a call from his editor sent Richard racing to downtown Manhattan with only a brief description – “A plane has hit the World Trade Center.” Finding himself at the base of the Twin Towers, Richard captured the impact of the deadliest terror attack in American history (and the single deadliest terror attack ever). Amongst the many historical photos he took that day, Richard captured a moment now known around the world as “The Falling Man.” In this interview, Richard weaves us through the streets of New York City, sharing the moments before and after an unexpected assignment, and why he believes we shouldn’t look away from this photo.

On a personal note: Richard and I knew each other for years before I learned of his contributions to the historical record of September 11th, 2001. During our first meeting, we discovered that he had worked with my grandfather at the Associated Press bureau in San Francisco in the 1970s! What are the chances? From that point on, I always felt a special bond with Richard, as if he knew a part of my own story that no else does – especially since my grandfather passed away long before I could pepper him with questions about his journalism career. As you’ll see in this interview, I press Richard on why he thinks he has found himself steps from so many significant historical moments. And like any good photojournalist, Richard leaves this up to you to come to your own conclusions.

by Jenna Lee,