Three years ago I read a Tom JunodEsquire article about a photo that has haunted me since in September 2001: The Falling Man. This is what Tom about this photo:
“At fifteen seconds after 9:41 a.m., on September 11, 2001, a photographer named Richard Drew took a picture of a man falling through the sky—falling through time as well as through space. The picture went all around the world, and then disappeared, as if we willed it away. One of the most famous photographs in human history became an unmarked grave, and the man buried inside its frame—the Falling Man—became the Unknown Soldier in a war whose end we have not yet seen. Richard Drew’s photograph is all we know of him, and yet all we know of him becomes a measure of what we know of ourselves. The picture is his cenotaph, and like the monuments dedicated to the memory of unknown soldiers everywhere, it asks that we look at it, and make one simple acknowledgment. That we have known who the Falling Man is all along.”
Last year, I posted this photo on my personal Instagram account with the above words as it’s caption. I received so many responses of people’s experiences with that photo and of September 11th. Responses even came in from journalist and TV anchors. Earlier today, we posted that same photo, with the same caption on our Highlark Instagram account and it was censored.
I understand and in many ways support Facebook’s right to censor specific material on their platform: hate speech, nudity (because those under 18 have access to the platform), false information (which the company hardly censors), etc. But an iconic, important image of history is unacceptable. History is not always rainbows and unicorns. Moments in history are uncomfortable and should be, so we do not repeat our mistakes. Are we going to censor images around slavery and lynching? Around mass shootings? War and genocide?
Images like The Falling Man, remind us of where we were and where we are today. As Junod wrote, “The picture is his cenotaph, and like the monuments dedicated to the memory of unknown soldiers everywhere, it asks that we look at it, and make one simple acknowledgment. That we have known who the Falling Man is all along.”
Censoring our past says a lot about who we are today — shame on you Facebook.
I reached out to Facebook via Twitter and email for comment. I will post their response if they respond.