Tourist Photo and WTC Attack
First Published September, 2001
Ok, I was really hoping to avoid writing on this one but my inbox is being strained to its electronic limits. The photo circulating as a chain letter showing an "unsuspecting" tourist posing moments before an American Airlines 767 crashes into the building.
This photo is in all likely hood a hoax. I've studied the picture which is looking North towards the Empire State Building (which you can see just next to his right shoulder). This photo had to be taken from 2WTC which was the second tower to be hit. After confirming with a site on facts about the Trade Center, I discovered there is no observation deck on the top of 1WTC which was struck first. However, the plane which hit 2WTC did NOT hit the tower on its North side and this is clearly looking North. Now if you think this is a photo of the second plane hitting 2WTC and I'm just "mistaken" about the direction of flight, think again. After checking numerous photos from that day, I discovered that after 1WTC was hit by the first plane the smoke from the explosion was blown all over the top of 2WTC and should be visible in this photo if he were taking this from the observation deck on 2WTC. So since there is no observation deck on the first tower and the second tower should have been covered by smoke it seems unlikely from this alone that the photo was faked.
Further, what the heck is he doing wearing that very heavy coat and hat. It was a warm morning in NYC and the clothing seems several months premature. Also, curious is the lack of high angle morning shadows on the plane's wing when they are so prominent on the "tourist".
It seems like the evidence favors the explanation that this was a contrived photo. It is quite well done, but its perspective doesn't fit the facts as we know them. It does still create powerful feelings in most of us because it captures the unbelievable surprise many at the tower and all of us around the world felt as we saw the images of the exploding planes. However, there are enough real, and frightening photos of this event without adding a manufactured one to the mix.
Here is a copy of the photo in question as it was forwarded to me (countless times):
Washington Post Graphic showing the Positions of the Buildings