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Sunday, September 14, 2008

Anti-Palin rally draws hundreds in Alaska

ANCHORAGE (AP) — Hundreds of people protesting the policies of Republican vice presidential candidate and Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin lined a busy street on Saturday, waving signs and chanting "Obama!"

The protest came about two hours after Palin delivered a rousing speech at Anchorage's new convention center before leaving the state to return to the campaign trail. Palin was named John McCain's running mate on Aug. 29. This was her first return since then to her home state.

The protesters, including supporters of presidential candidate Barack Obama and those who don't agree with Palin's positions on abortion, polar bears, Iraq and other issues, lined one side of the street near Anchorage's main library building.

A much smaller number of mostly pro-Palin supporters were on the other side of the street, chanting "Sarah! Sarah!"

Police were at the scene, but there were no immediate reports of clashes.

Angie Doroff, 46, helped organize the rally. The wildlife biologist, yoga teacher and artist said she was pleased and surprised at how many people showed up.

"We're not alone. A lot of people are worried about the nomination of Sarah Palin," Doroff said, as cars drove by honking their horns in support.

Barbara Norton, a 56-year-old midwife, stood near a sign that read, "Alaskan Women for Choice."

"I think America does not understand how absolutely extreme her positions are — even to the right of George Bush and John McCain," Norton said. "She is frightening."

Anne Applegate-Scott, a 44-year-old attorney and stay-at-home mom, held a sign that said, "I don't vote for liars." Applegate-Scott said she actually voted for Palin for governor but won't vote for the McCain-Palin ticket. Palin, she thinks, has become a "product" of McCain handlers and won't let her talk to the media.

When she does talk, Applegate-Scott accused Palin of lying about her record.

"She lied about her position on earmarks and building the bridge," Applegate-Scott said referring to the infamous Bridge to Nowhere. "She talks about her being a feminist but it is convenient feminism, it doesn't cost her anything."

One woman held a sign that read, "I'm Bail'in on Palin!" Another said, "Pro Woman, Anti-Palin." Another read, "What About Healthcare?"

One person strolled through the crowd in a polar bear suit. The bear was holding a sign that said, "Polar bear moms say No to Palin," a reference to Palin's opposition to placing the polar bear on the threatened species list because that could interfere with drilling for oil off Alaska's coast.

As more people gathered, the rally took on the look of a large family gathering with protesters hugging each other and exclaiming their surprise that so many people had gathered.

On the lawn outside the library two men held up a large banner that said, "Iraq War is Fraud. Palin is a puppet." One of the men waved an Alaskan state flag.

Some of the signs spoke out against Palin's anti-abortion position. Laura Kimmel, a 40-year-old Anchorage woman expecting her second baby in April, wore a clothes hanger with a sign attached that said, "This is not a surgical instrument. Keep abortions safe and legal."

Susan Soule, 65, a part-time health consultant, said she is old enough to remember when abortion wasn't legal and what women went through who wanted to terminate their pregnancies.

"I know the terror of unwanted pregnancy and back-room abortions. I know what that did to women," said Soule.

Hilary Seitz, 39, attended the rally with her two girls, 8-year-old Abbigale and 11-year-old Taylor. If McCain becomes president and Palin is the VP, Seitz said she fears what will happen on the Supreme Court and keeping abortion legal.

"It really scares me that if we lose that option what are women going to do," Seitz said. She said that she was at the rally for her girls and their futures.

Earlier in the day, a smaller crowd of Palin supporters gathered at the convention center. Angelina Klapperich, 14, wore her crown for winning Miss Alaska Junior Teen in 2007.

"I think she is a super role model for young people," the girl said of Palin, who won Miss Wasilla and came in second at the 1984 Miss Alaska pageant, taking home the Miss Congeniality award. "She has so much integrity and she is really confident."

Also on Saturday, 14 people held signs like "Honk if You Love Gay People" during a 12-hour vigil outside the Abbott Loop Community Church in Anchorage, where a conference promising to convert gays into heterosexuals through the power of prayer was being held.

Palin's place of worship, the Wasilla Bible Church, promoted the "Love Won Out" conference, sponsored by Focus on the Family.

"Our main message is that God loves everyone the way they are," said protester Mike Mason. "People should be accepted for who they are."

Attempts by The Associated Press to reach someone at the church Saturday for comment were not successful.

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Original here

A Big Rally and Talk of Economy as Obama Visits N.H.

By Jonathan Weisman
MANCHESTER, N.H. -- Sen. Barack Obama took his newly aggressive campaign against Republican opponent Sen. John McCain to an open-air rally here, castigating the senator from Arizona as a Johnny-come-lately to the cause of change and imploring about 8,000 Granite State citizens not to be distracted by the GOP's barrage of negative attacks.

"The McCain-Palin ticket, they don't want to debate the Obama-Biden ticket on the issues because they're running on eight more years," he said, beneath a sunny September sky. "They will try to distort my record, and they will try to undermine your trust in what the Democrats want to do.... But the times are too serious for those strategies to work this time."

After a long series of more intimate events in workplaces and high school gyms, the Manchester rally saw the campaign returning to a large-crowd format. The McCain campaign has castigated such populous gatherings as mere "celebrity" worship, but also adopted the model since the addition of Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin to the ticket gave his campaign new energy.

The Obama rally was dialed down a notch in light of Hurricane Ike ravaging Texas, with the campaign scrapping an appearance by vice presidential running mate Sen. Joseph Biden and Obama opening with an appeal for the Red Cross and to help the victims of Ike.

"During difficult times, during moments of tragedy, the American people come together," he said.

But Obama quickly pivoted to a more aggressive stump speech focused squarely on the struggling economy, saying "there are a lot of quiet storms going on all across America," in the form of job losses, spiraling health care and college costs and schools that are "underfunded and uninspired."

"People are concerned not just for their immediate well-being, but they're concerned about what happened to that promise, what happened to that dream? Are we going to be the first generation that passes on a country that is a little less prosperous, a little less unified and a little meaner than the last generation?" he said, repeating the phrase that has become the theme of his campaign since the Democratic convention. "We are here to say, 'Enough is enough.'"

As he spoke, the Obama campaign and the Democratic National Committee officially unveiled a campaign commercial that had begun running yesterday in swing states, castigating McCain as a tool of Washington lobbyists. "His campaign manager lobbies for corporations outsourcing American jobs," the add states, flashing an image of McCain with his campaign manager, Rick Davis. "The campaign chairman he picked last year ... a bank lobbyist," it continues, with an image of McCain and former Texas Sen. Phil Gramm. "If seven of McCain's top advisers are lobbyists, who do you think will run his White House?" the ad asks.

Tucker Bounds, a spokesman McCain-Palin 2008, quickly retorted in a post-rally statement: "It says a lot about Barack Obama's judgment that while his campaign canceled his appearance on Saturday Night Live and his running mate stayed home, Obama went ahead and delivered a series of scathing personal attacks. Today's attacks mark a new low from Barack Obama."

The Obama campaign couldn't let that pass, and Obama campaign spokesman Bill Burton issued a statement of his own. "We will take no lectures from John McCain who is cynically running the sleaziest and least honorable campaign in modern Presidential campaign history," he said in an e-mail. "His discredited ads with disgusting lies are running all over the country today. He runs a campaign not worthy of the office his is seeking."

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Greenspan Says McCain Tax Plan Needs Corresponding Budget Cuts

By Scott Lanman

Sept. 12 (Bloomberg) -- Former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan said the country can't afford $3.3 trillion of tax cuts proposed by Republican presidential nominee John McCain without corresponding spending reductions.

Greenspan, a lifelong Republican and longtime friend of McCain, said today on Bloomberg Television's ``Political Capital With Al Hunt'' that ``I'm not in favor of financing tax cuts with borrowed money.''

McCain has said he would balance the cost of most of his tax cuts with budget reductions, while providing few details beyond eliminating earmarks and other pork-barrel spending, which have totaled about $171 billion since 2001. Democratic nominee Barack Obama is proposing fewer tax cuts and more ambitious spending programs.

Greenspan said he has ``mixed feelings'' about a second government economic-stimulus bill after the U.S. provided a $168 billion package in February. While such an action may increase the budget deficit at a time when spending on retirees' medical benefits is about to cause ``big'' financial problems, it may also boost economic growth, he said.

Greenspan has said there's at least a 50 percent chance the U.S. economy will slide into a recession.

``There is no infinite piggy bank here,'' Greenspan said today. It's ``far more important'' to use federal resources, if necessary, to shore up the financial system and end the credit crisis, as Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson did in taking over mortgage-finance companies Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, averting a possible run on the system, Greenspan said.

Economic Stimulus

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other Democrats in Congress have called for an additional $50 billion in economic stimulus. A request by General Motors Corp., Ford Motor Co. and their suppliers for at least $25 billion in government loans to help them shift to more fuel-efficient auto models will likely be included, Democrats said this week.

Greenspan's memoir, ``The Age of Turbulence,'' was released in a paperback version this week, a year after the first hardcover edition. In a new epilogue, the former Fed chief, who retired in 2006, cited a ``critical need'' to create procedures for bank bailouts that ensure there is no impact on the Fed's balance sheet and interest-rate policy.

The Fed and the Treasury Department are helping Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. find a buyer after investor concerns about the firm's capital prompted more than a 75 percent decline in its market value this week. Paulson is adamant that no government funds will be used in a Lehman resolution, a person close to the matter said today.

`Most Critical Question'

In the interview, Greenspan, 82, said the ``most critical question'' is where to draw the line between companies that get government-led bailouts. It's impossible to rule out such actions completely, Greenspan said, citing crises such as the current one as a ``once-in-a-half century, once-in-a-century event'' that can't be avoided.

``If you want the system to stay together, there comes a time when you basically have to substitute sovereign credit for private credit to keep the system moving,'' Greenspan said. If a bailout is necessary, it's important that ``you do it in a way which essentially does not have major long-term consequences.''

McCain's proposal, outlined April 15, would extend President George W. Bush's tax cuts, reduce the top corporate rate, repeal the alternative minimum tax and double exemptions for dependents. That would be offset by eliminating pork-barrel spending, freezing a portion of the budget and saving from Medicare spending, McCain said at the time.

Politically Careless

``I always have tied tax cuts to spending,'' Greenspan said. In 2001 testimony before Congress, Greenspan was widely interpreted to have endorsed Bush's proposal to cut taxes by $1.6 trillion over 10 years. In the book, Greenspan characterized his testimony as politically careless and said his words were misinterpreted.

Paul Volcker, Greenspan's predecessor as Fed chairman, has endorsed Obama, a first-term U.S. senator from Illinois, in the presidential election, and is serving as an economic adviser to the candidate.

Greenspan said the widening income disparity among Americans is a ``very serious'' issue, and requires both raising the pay of lower-income workers and reducing higher incomes. ``The best way of doing that is to remove what is essentially protectionism for those skilled workers in the United States who are helped by keeping out their competition,'' he said, referring to the issue of ``skilled immigration.''

The U.S. education system is ``critical'' to help ``cutting-edge technologies'' replace older industries that will be phased out over time, Greenspan said.

Original here

She’s Not Ready

By BOB HERBERT

While watching the Sarah Palin interview with Charlie Gibson Thursday night, and the coverage of the Palin phenomenon in general, I’ve gotten the scary feeling, for the first time in my life, that dimwittedness is not just on the march in the U.S., but that it might actually prevail.



How is it that this woman could have been selected to be the vice presidential candidate on a major party ticket? How is it that so much of the mainstream media has dropped all pretense of seriousness to hop aboard the bandwagon and go along for the giddy ride?

For those who haven’t noticed, we’re electing a president and vice president, not selecting a winner on “American Idol.”

Ms. Palin may be a perfectly competent and reasonably intelligent woman (however troubling her views on evolution and global warming may be), but she is not ready to be vice president.

With most candidates for high public office, the question is whether one agrees with them on the major issues of the day. With Ms. Palin, it’s not about agreeing or disagreeing. She doesn’t appear to understand some of the most important issues.

“Do you believe in the Bush doctrine?” Mr. Gibson asked during the interview. Ms. Palin looked like an unprepared student who wanted nothing so much as to escape this encounter with the school principal.

Clueless, she asked, “In what respect, Charlie?”

“Well, what do you interpret it to be?” said Mr. Gibson.

“His worldview?” asked Ms. Palin.

Later, in the spin zones of cable TV, commentators repeatedly made the point that there are probably very few voters — some specifically mentioned “hockey moms” — who could explain the Bush doctrine. But that’s exactly the reason we have such long and intense campaigns. You want to find the individuals who best understand these issues, who will address them in sophisticated and creative ways that enhance the well-being of the nation.

The Bush doctrine, which flung open the doors to the catastrophe in Iraq, was such a fundamental aspect of the administration’s foreign policy that it staggers the imagination that we could have someone no further than a whisper away from the White House who doesn’t even know what it is.

You can’t imagine that John McCain or Barack Obama or Joe Biden or Hillary Clinton or Joe Lieberman would not know what the Bush doctrine is. But Sarah Palin? Absolutely clueless.

Ms. Palin’s problem is not that she was mayor of a small town or has only been in the Alaska governor’s office a short while. Her problem (and now ours) is that she is not well versed on the critical matters confronting the country at one of the most crucial turning points in its history.

The economy is in a tailspin. The financial sector is lurching about on rubbery legs. We’re mired in self-defeating energy policies. We’re at war. And we are still vulnerable to the very real threat of international terrorism.

With all of that and more being the case, how can it be a good idea to set in motion the possibility that Americans might wake up one morning to find that Sarah Palin is president?

I feel for Ms. Palin’s son who has been shipped off to the war in Iraq. But at his deployment ceremony, which was on the same day as the Charlie Gibson interview, Sept. 11, she told the audience of soldiers that they would be fighting “the enemies who planned and carried out and rejoiced in the death of thousands of Americans.”

Was she deliberately falsifying history, or does she still not know that Iraq and Saddam Hussein had nothing to do with the Sept. 11 attacks?

To burnish the foreign policy credentials of a vice presidential candidate who never even had a passport until last year, the Republicans have been touting Alaska’s proximity to Russia. (Imagine the derisive laughter in conservative circles if the Democrats had tried such nonsense.) So Mr. Gibson asked Ms. Palin, “What insight into Russian actions, particularly in the last couple of weeks, does the proximity of the state give you?”

She said, “They’re our next-door neighbors. And you can actually see Russia from land here in Alaska. From an island in Alaska.”

Mr. Gibson tried again. “But what insight does that give you,” he asked, “into what they’re doing in Georgia?”

John McCain, who is shameless about promoting himself as America’s ultimate patriot, put the best interests of the nation aside in making his incredibly reckless choice of a running mate. But there is a profound double standard in this country. The likes of John McCain and George W. Bush can do the craziest, most irresponsible things imaginable, and it only seems to help them politically.

Original here

Obama Leads In Foreign Policy, Bush Follows


In some ways, Obama has been a shadow president for a while. Even JPod now concedes that Obama has been right about the terror war:

I was among many people who ridiculed the Obama proposal at the time, on the grounds that a) no nation violates the territorial integrity of an ally, even if that ally is problematic, and b) Obama’s bellicosity seemed entirely unbelievable, given that he spoke in the wake of his remarks about meeting with the leaders of the world’s worst regimes “without preconditions.” On the latter point, he was and remains wrong and foolish.

On the former point, though, he was, apparently, precognitive, and may be due an apology.

Ya think? Radley Balko adds:

Will McCain now condemn the Bush administration's decision to go into Pakistan? Or was this idea only naive ten months ago? Was it only naive because it came from Obama? The Obama campaign should be making a much bigger deal about this.

Yes, they should. On one of the most critical decisions of the war, Obama staked out a position a while back that the Bush camp and neocons assailed as naive, disastrous, and revealing of his unfitness to be president. But like almost everything else Obama has said about the war, he was right and Bush was wrong. Obama was ahead of Bush in proposing to shift troops to Afghanistan, ahead of Bush in suggesting a timetable for Iraq withdrawal (subsequently embraced by Maliki), ahead of Bush in arguing we should talk directly to Iran, and, of course, right about not fighting the war in the first place.

The Bush administration - when guided by the saner forces within it such as Gates and Rice - eventually follows Obama's advice. In that sense, Obama has been president for quite a while already. And proving he could be a shrewd, pragmatic and prescient one.

Original here

Gov. Palin’s Worldview

As we watched Sarah Palin on TV the last couple of days, we kept wondering what on earth John McCain was thinking.

If he seriously thought this first-term governor — with less than two years in office — was qualified to be president, if necessary, at such a dangerous time, it raises profound questions about his judgment. If the choice was, as we suspect, a tactical move, then it was shockingly irresponsible.

It was bad enough that Ms. Palin’s performance in the first televised interviews she has done since she joined the Republican ticket was so visibly scripted and lacking in awareness.

What made it so much worse is the strategy for which the Republicans have made Ms. Palin the frontwoman: win the White House not on ideas, but by denigrating experience, judgment and qualifications.

The idea that Americans want leaders who have none of those things — who are so blindly certain of what Ms. Palin calls “the mission” that they won’t even pause for reflection — shows a contempt for voters and raises frightening questions about how Mr. McCain and Ms. Palin plan to run this country.

One of the many bizarre moments in the questioning by ABC News’s Charles Gibson was when Ms. Palin, the governor of Alaska, excused her lack of international experience by sneering that Americans don’t want “somebody’s big fat résumé maybe that shows decades and decades in that Washington establishment where, yes, they’ve had opportunities to meet heads of state.”

We know we were all supposed to think of Joe Biden. But it sure sounded like a good description of Mr. McCain. Those decades of experience earned the Arizona senator the admiration of people in both parties. They are why he was our preferred candidate in the Republican primaries.

The interviews made clear why Americans should worry about Ms. Palin’s thin résumé and lack of experience. Consider her befuddlement when Mr. Gibson referred to President Bush’s “doctrine” and her remark about having insight into Russia because she can see it from her state.

But that is not what troubled us most about her remarks — and, remember, if they were scripted, that just means that they reflect Mr. McCain’s views all the more closely. Rather, it was the sense that thoughtfulness, knowledge and experience are handicaps for a president in a world populated by Al Qaeda terrorists, a rising China, epidemics of AIDS, poverty and fratricidal war in the developing world and deep economic distress at home.

Ms. Palin talked repeatedly about never blinking. When Mr. McCain asked her to run for vice president? “You have to be wired in a way of being so committed to the mission,” she said, that “you can’t blink.”

Fighting terrorism? “We must do whatever it takes, and we must not blink, Charlie, in making those tough decisions of where we go and even who we target.”

Her answers about why she had told her church that President Bush’s failed policy in Iraq was “God’s plan” did nothing to dispel our concerns about her confusion between faith and policy. Her claim that she was quoting a completely unrelated comment by Lincoln was absurd.

This nation has suffered through eight years of an ill-prepared and unblinkingly obstinate president. One who didn’t pause to think before he started a disastrous war of choice in Iraq. One who blithely looked the other way as the Taliban and Al Qaeda regrouped in Afghanistan. One who obstinately cut taxes and undercut all efforts at regulation, unleashing today’s profound economic crisis.

In a dangerous world, Americans need a president who knows that real strength requires serious thought and preparation.

Original here

Here's What Change Really Means

If you've been looking for something to get you fired up, here it is: Barack Obama earlier today in Concord, New Hampshire, laying out the foundations of what change really means -- from energy (which he knocked out of the park) to education to foreign policy to the economy.


YouTube link

This is Barack Obama at his best, especially when he talks about why the same old politics just won't do, and about how when we are united, there's nothing Americans can't do. This is the fire that carried this campaign to the Democratic nomination. This is the fire that will carry us through the election.

Original here

McCain-Palin Crowd-Size Estimates Not Backed by Officials

By Lorraine Woellert and Jeff Bliss

Sept. 13 (Bloomberg) -- Senator John McCain has drawn some of the biggest crowds of his presidential campaign since adding Alaska Governor Sarah Palin to his ticket on Aug. 29. Now officials say they can't substantiate the figures McCain's aides are claiming.

McCain aide Kimmie Lipscomb told reporters on Sept. 10 that an outdoor rally in Fairfax City, Virginia, drew 23,000 people, attributing the crowd estimate to a fire marshal.

Fairfax City Fire Marshal Andrew Wilson said his office did not supply that number to the campaign and could not confirm it. Wilson, in an interview, said the fire department does not monitor attendance at outdoor events.

In recent days, journalists attending the rallies have been raising questions about the crowd estimates with the campaign. In a story on Sept. 11 about Palin's attraction for some Virginia women voters, Washington Post reporter Marc Fisher estimated the crowd to be 8,000, not the 23,000 cited by the campaign.

``The 23,000 figure was substantiated on the ground,'' McCain spokesman Tucker Bounds said. ``The campaign is willing to stand by the fact that it was our biggest crowd to date.''

``Since day one, this campaign has been consistent that we're not going to win or lose based on crowd size but the substance of John McCain's record,'' Bounds said.

Town Hall Meetings

Until Palin, 44, joined him on the campaign trail, McCain, 72, had limited his political events to smaller town hall meetings and rallies of a few hundred people. His Democratic rival, Barack Obama, an Illinois senator, routinely draws thousands of people to his speeches, a phenomenon McCain has tried to use to his advantage by labeling Obama, 47, a celebrity.

That changed on Aug. 30, at Palin's first big public appearance after her nomination. The McCain campaign said 10,000 people showed up at the Consol Energy Arena in Washington, Pennsylvania, home of the Washington Wild Things baseball team.

The campaign attributed that estimate, and several that followed, to U.S. Secret Service figures, based on the number of people who passed through magnetometers.

``We didn't provide any numbers to the campaign,'' said Malcolm Wiley, a spokesman for the U.S. Secret Service. Wiley said he would not ``confirm or dispute'' the numbers the McCain campaign has given to reporters.

To contact the reporters on this story: Lorraine Woellert in Washington at lwoellert@bloomberg.net; Jeff Bliss in Washington at jbliss@bloomberg.net.

Original here

Once Elected, Palin Hired Friends and Lashed Foes

The Wasilla City Council, with Sarah Palin, the future governor and vice-presidential nominee, at the center, in a 1998 photograph. Throughout her career, Ms. Palin has pursued vendettas, fired officials who crossed her and blurred the line between government and personal grievance.

By JO BECKER, PETER S. GOODMAN and MICHAEL POWELL

WASILLA, Alaska — Gov. Sarah Palin lives by the maxim that all politics is local, not to mention personal.

So when there was a vacancy at the top of the State Division of Agriculture, she appointed a high school classmate, Franci Havemeister, to the $95,000-a-year directorship. A former real estate agent, Ms. Havemeister cited her childhood love of cows as a qualification for running the roughly $2 million agency.

Ms. Havemeister was one of at least five schoolmates Ms. Palin hired, often at salaries far exceeding their private sector wages.

When Ms. Palin had to cut her first state budget, she avoided the legion of frustrated legislators and mayors. Instead, she huddled with her budget director and her husband, Todd, an oil field worker who is not a state employee, and vetoed millions of dollars of legislative projects.

And four months ago, a Wasilla blogger, Sherry Whitstine, who chronicles the governor’s career with an astringent eye, answered her phone to hear an assistant to the governor on the line, she said.

“You should be ashamed!” Ivy Frye, the assistant, told her. “Stop blogging. Stop blogging right now!”

Ms. Palin walks the national stage as a small-town foe of “good old boy” politics and a champion of ethics reform. The charismatic 44-year-old governor draws enthusiastic audiences and high approval ratings. And as the Republican vice-presidential nominee, she points to her management experience while deriding her Democratic rivals, Senators Barack Obama and Joseph R. Biden Jr., as speechmakers who never have run anything.

But an examination of her swift rise and record as mayor of Wasilla and then governor finds that her visceral style and penchant for attacking critics — she sometimes calls local opponents “haters” — contrasts with her carefully crafted public image.

Throughout her political career, she has pursued vendettas, fired officials who crossed her and sometimes blurred the line between government and personal grievance, according to a review of public records and interviews with 60 Republican and Democratic legislators and local officials.

Still, Ms. Palin has many supporters. As a two-term mayor she paved roads and built an ice rink, and as governor she has pushed through higher taxes on the oil companies that dominate one-third of the state’s economy. She stirs deep emotions. In Wasilla, many residents display unflagging affection, cheering “our Sarah” and hissing at her critics.

“She is bright and has unfailing political instincts,” said Steve Haycox, a history professor at the University of Alaska. “She taps very directly into anxieties about the economic future.”

“But,” he added, “her governing style raises a lot of hard questions.”

Ms. Palin declined to grant an interview for this article. The McCain-Palin campaign responded to some questions on her behalf and that of her husband, while referring others to the governor’s spokespeople, who did not respond.

Lt. Gov. Sean Parnell said Ms. Palin had conducted an accessible and effective administration in the public’s interest. “Everything she does is for the ordinary working people of Alaska,” he said.

In Wasilla, a builder said he complained to Mayor Palin when the city attorney put a stop-work order on his housing project. She responded, he said, by engineering the attorney’s firing.

Interviews show that Ms. Palin runs an administration that puts a premium on loyalty and secrecy. The governor and her top officials sometimes use personal e-mail accounts for state business; dozens of e-mail messages obtained by The New York Times show that her staff members studied whether that could allow them to circumvent subpoenas seeking public records.

Rick Steiner, a University of Alaska professor, sought the e-mail messages of state scientists who had examined the effect of global warming on polar bears. (Ms. Palin said the scientists had found no ill effects, and she has sued the federal government to block the listing of the bears as endangered.) An administration official told Mr. Steiner that his request would cost $468,784 to process.

When Mr. Steiner finally obtained the e-mail messages — through a federal records request — he discovered that state scientists had in fact agreed that the bears were in danger, records show.

“Their secrecy is off the charts,” Mr. Steiner said.

State legislators are investigating accusations that Ms. Palin and her husband pressured officials to fire a state trooper who had gone through a messy divorce with her sister, charges that she denies. But interviews make clear that the Palins draw few distinctions between the personal and the political.

Last summer State Representative John Harris, the Republican speaker of the House, picked up his phone and heard Mr. Palin’s voice. The governor’s husband sounded edgy. He said he was unhappy that Mr. Harris had hired John Bitney as his chief of staff, the speaker recalled. Mr. Bitney was a high school classmate of the Palins and had worked for Ms. Palin. But she fired Mr. Bitney after learning that he had fallen in love with another longtime friend.

“I understood from the call that Todd wasn’t happy with me hiring John and he’d like to see him not there,” Mr. Harris said.

“The Palin family gets upset at personal issues,” he added. “And at our level, they want to strike back.”

Through a campaign spokesman, Mr. Palin said he “did not recall” referring to Mr. Bitney in the conversation.

Hometown Mayor

Laura Chase, the campaign manager during Ms. Palin’s first run for mayor in 1996, recalled the night the two women chatted about her ambitions.

“I said, ‘You know, Sarah, within 10 years you could be governor,’ ” Ms. Chase recalled. “She replied, ‘I want to be president.’ ”

Ms. Palin grew up in Wasilla, an old fur trader’s outpost and now a fast-growing exurb of Anchorage. The town sits in the Matanuska-Susitna Valley, edged by jagged mountains and birch forests. In the 1930s, the Roosevelt administration took farmers from the Dust Bowl area and resettled them here; their Democratic allegiances defined the valley for half a century.

In the past three decades, socially conservative Oklahomans and Texans have flocked north to the oil fields of Alaska. They filled evangelical churches around Wasilla and revived the Republican Party. Many of these working-class residents formed the electoral backbone for Ms. Palin, who ran for mayor on a platform of gun rights, opposition to abortion and the ouster of the “complacent” old guard.

After winning the mayoral election in 1996, Ms. Palin presided over a city rapidly outgrowing itself. Septic tanks had begun to pollute lakes, and residential lots were carved willy-nilly out of the woods. She passed road and sewer bonds, cut property taxes but raised the sales tax.

And, her supporters say, she cleaned out the municipal closet, firing veteran officials to make way for her own team. “She had an agenda for change and for doing things differently,” said Judy Patrick, a City Council member at the time.

But careers were turned upside down. The mayor quickly fired the town’s museum director, John Cooper. Later, she sent an aide to the museum to talk to the three remaining employees. “He told us they only wanted two,” recalled Esther West, one of the three, “and we had to pick who was going to be laid off.” The three quit as one.

Ms. Palin cited budget difficulties for the museum cuts. Mr. Cooper thought differently, saying the museum had become a microcosm of class and cultural conflicts in town. “It represented that the town was becoming more progressive, and they didn’t want that,” he said.

Days later, Mr. Cooper recalled, a vocal conservative, Steve Stoll, sidled up to him. Mr. Stoll had supported Ms. Palin and had a long-running feud with Mr. Cooper. “He said: ‘Gotcha, Cooper,’ ” Mr. Cooper said.

Mr. Stoll did not recall that conversation, although he said he supported Ms. Palin’s campaign and was pleased when she fired Mr. Cooper.

In 1997, Ms. Palin fired the longtime city attorney, Richard Deuser, after he issued the stop-work order on a home being built by Don Showers, another of her campaign supporters.

Your attorney, Mr. Showers told Ms. Palin, is costing me lots of money.

“She told me she’d like to see him fired,” Mr. Showers recalled. “But she couldn’t do it herself because the City Council hires the city attorney.” Ms. Palin told him to write the council members to complain.

Meanwhile, Ms. Palin pushed the issue from the inside. “She started the ball rolling,” said Ms. Patrick, who also favored the firing. Mr. Deuser was soon replaced by Ken Jacobus, then the State Republican Party’s general counsel.

“Professionals were either forced out or fired,” Mr. Deuser said.

Ms. Palin ordered city employees not to talk to the press. And she used city money to buy a white Suburban for the mayor’s use — employees sarcastically called it the mayor-mobile.

The new mayor also tended carefully to her evangelical base. She appointed a pastor to the town planning board. And she began to eye the library. For years, social conservatives had pressed the library director to remove books they considered immoral.

“People would bring books back censored,” recalled former Mayor John Stein, Ms. Palin’s predecessor. “Pages would get marked up or torn out.”

Witnesses and contemporary news accounts say Ms. Palin asked the librarian about removing books from the shelves. The McCain-Palin presidential campaign says Ms. Palin never advocated censorship.

But in 1995, Ms. Palin, then a city councilwoman, told colleagues that she had noticed the book “Daddy’s Roommate” on the shelves and that it did not belong there, according to Ms. Chase and Mr. Stein. Ms. Chase read the book, which helps children understand homosexuality, and said it was inoffensive; she suggested that Ms. Palin read it.

“Sarah said she didn’t need to read that stuff,” Ms. Chase said. “It was disturbing that someone would be willing to remove a book from the library and she didn’t even read it.”

“I’m still proud of Sarah,” she added, “but she scares the bejeebers out of me.”

Reform Crucible

Restless ambition defined Ms. Palin in the early years of this decade. She raised money for Senator Ted Stevens, a Republican from the state; finished second in the 2002 Republican primary for lieutenant governor; and sought to fill the seat of Senator Frank H. Murkowski when he ran for governor.

Mr. Murkowski appointed his daughter to the seat, but as a consolation prize, he gave Ms. Palin the $125,000-a-year chairmanship of a state commission overseeing oil and gas drilling.

Ms. Palin discovered that the state Republican leader, Randy Ruedrich, a commission member, was conducting party business on state time and favoring regulated companies. When Mr. Murkowski failed to act on her complaints, she quit and went public.

The Republican establishment shunned her. But her break with the gentlemen’s club of oil producers and political power catapulted her into the public eye.

“She was honest and forthright,” said Jay Kerttula, a former Democratic state senator from Palmer.

Ms. Palin entered the 2006 primary for governor as a formidable candidate.

In the middle of the primary, a conservative columnist in the state, Paul Jenkins, unearthed e-mail messages showing that Ms. Palin had conducted campaign business from the mayor’s office. Ms. Palin handled the crisis with a street fighter’s guile.

“I told her it looks like she did the same thing that Randy Ruedrich did,” Mr. Jenkins recalled. “And she said, ‘Yeah, what I did was wrong.’ ”

Mr. Jenkins hung up and decided to forgo writing about it. His phone rang soon after.

Mr. Jenkins said a reporter from Fairbanks, reading from a Palin news release, demanded to know why he was “smearing” her. “Now I look at her and think: ‘Man, you’re slick,’ ” he said.

Ms. Palin won the primary, and in the general election she faced Tony Knowles, the former two-term Democratic governor, and Andrew Halcro, an independent.

Not deeply versed in policy, Ms. Palin skipped some candidate forums; at others, she flipped through hand-written, color-coded index cards strategically placed behind her nameplate.

Before one forum, Mr. Halcro said he saw aides shovel reports at Ms. Palin as she crammed. Her showman’s instincts rarely failed. She put the pile of reports on the lectern. Asked what she would do about health care policy, she patted the stack and said she would find an answer in the pile of solutions.

“She was fresh, and she was tomorrow,” said Michael Carey, a former editorial page editor for The Anchorage Daily News. “She just floated along like Mary Poppins.”

Government

Half a century after Alaska became a state, Ms. Palin was inaugurated as governor in Fairbanks and took up the reformer’s sword.

As she assembled her cabinet and made other state appointments, those with insider credentials were now on the outs. But a new pattern became clear. She surrounded herself with people she has known since grade school and members of her church.

Mr. Parnell, the lieutenant governor, praised Ms. Palin’s appointments. “The people she hires are competent, qualified, top-notch people,” he said.

Ms. Palin chose Talis Colberg, a borough assemblyman from the Matanuska valley, as her attorney general, provoking a bewildered question from the legal community: “Who?” Mr. Colberg, who did not return calls, moved from a one-room building in the valley to one of the most powerful offices in the state, supervising some 500 people.

“I called him and asked, ‘Do you know how to supervise people?’ ” said a family friend, Kathy Wells. “He said, ‘No, but I think I’ll get some help.’ ”

The Wasilla High School yearbook archive now doubles as a veritable directory of state government. Ms. Palin appointed Mr. Bitney, her former junior high school band-mate, as her legislative director and chose another classmate, Joe Austerman, to manage the economic development office for $82,908 a year. Mr. Austerman had established an Alaska franchise for Mailboxes Etc.

To her supporters — and with an 80 percent approval rating, she has plenty — Ms. Palin has lifted Alaska out of a mire of corruption. She gained the passage of a bill that tightens the rules covering lobbyists. And she rewrote the tax code to capture a greater share of oil and gas sale proceeds.

“Does anybody doubt that she’s a tough negotiator?” said State Representative Carl Gatto, Republican of Palmer.

Yet recent controversy has marred Ms. Palin’s reform credentials. In addition to the trooper investigation, lawmakers in April accused her of improperly culling thousands of e-mail addresses from a state database for a mass mailing to rally support for a policy initiative.

While Ms. Palin took office promising a more open government, her administration has battled to keep information secret. Her inner circle discussed the benefit of using private e-mail addresses. An assistant told her it appeared that such e-mail messages sent to a private address on a “personal device” like a BlackBerry “would be confidential and not subject to subpoena.”

Ms. Palin and aides use their private e-mail addresses for state business. A campaign spokesman said the governor copied e-mail messages to her state account “when there was significant state business.”

On Feb. 7, Frank Bailey, a high-level aide, wrote to Ms. Palin’s state e-mail address to discuss appointments. Another aide fired back: “Frank, this is not the governor’s personal account.”

Mr. Bailey responded: “Whoops~!”

Mr. Bailey, a former midlevel manager at Alaska Airlines who worked on Ms. Palin’s campaign, has been placed on paid leave; he has emerged as a central figure in the trooper investigation.

Another confidante of Ms. Palin’s is Ms. Frye, 27. She worked as a receptionist for State Senator Lyda Green before she joined Ms. Palin’s campaign for governor. Now Ms. Frye earns $68,664 as a special assistant to the governor. Her frequent interactions with Ms. Palin’s children have prompted some lawmakers to refer to her as “the babysitter,” a title that Ms. Frye disavows.

Like Mr. Bailey, she is an effusive cheerleader for her boss.

“YOU ARE SO AWESOME!” Ms. Frye typed in an e-mail message to Ms. Palin in March.

Many lawmakers contend that Ms. Palin is overly reliant on a small inner circle that leaves her isolated. Democrats and Republicans alike describe her as often missing in action. Since taking office in 2007, Ms. Palin has spent 312 nights at her Wasilla home, some 600 miles to the north of the governor’s mansion in Juneau, records show.

During the last legislative session, some lawmakers became so frustrated with her absences that they took to wearing “Where’s Sarah?” pins.

Many politicians say they typically learn of her initiatives — and vetoes — from news releases.

Mayors across the state, from the larger cities to tiny municipalities along the southeastern fiords, are even more frustrated. Often, their letters go unanswered and their pleas ignored, records and interviews show.

Last summer, Mayor Mark Begich of Anchorage, a Democrat, pressed Ms. Palin to meet with him because the state had failed to deliver money needed to operate city traffic lights. At one point, records show, state officials told him to just turn off a dozen of them. Ms. Palin agreed to meet with Mr. Begich when he threatened to go public with his anger, according to city officials.

At an Alaska Municipal League gathering in Juneau in January, mayors across the political spectrum swapped stories of the governor’s remoteness. How many of you, someone asked, have tried to meet with her? Every hand went up, recalled Mayor Fred Shields of Haines Borough. And how many met with her? Just a few hands rose. Ms. Palin soon walked in, delivered a few remarks and left for an anti-abortion rally.

The administration’s e-mail correspondence reveals a siege-like atmosphere. Top aides keep score, demean enemies and gloat over successes. Even some who helped engineer her rise have felt her wrath.

Dan Fagan, a prominent conservative radio host and longtime friend of Ms. Palin, urged his listeners to vote for her in 2006. But when he took her to task for raising taxes on oil companies, he said, he found himself branded a “hater.”

It is part of a pattern, Mr. Fagan said, in which Ms. Palin characterizes critics as “bad people who are anti-Alaska.”

As Ms. Palin’s star ascends, the McCain campaign, as often happens in national races, is controlling the words of those who know her well. Her mother-in-law, Faye Palin, has been asked not to speak to reporters, and aides sit in on interviews with old friends.

At a recent lunch gathering, an official with the Wasilla Chamber of Commerce asked its members to refer all calls from reporters to the governor’s office. Dianne Woodruff, a city councilwoman, shook her head.

“I was thinking, I don’t remember giving up my First Amendment rights,” Ms. Woodruff said. “Just because you’re not going gaga over Sarah doesn’t mean you can’t speak your mind.”

Original here

McCain Barbs Stirring Outcry as Distortions

Senator John McCain paid visits on Friday “The View,” where Joy Behar, third from right, said two of his advertisements were “lies.”

By MICHAEL COOPER and JIM RUTENBERG

Harsh advertisements and negative attacks are a staple of presidential campaigns, but Senator John McCain has drawn an avalanche of criticism this week from Democrats, independent groups and even some Republicans for regularly stretching the truth in attacking Senator Barack Obama’s record and positions.

Mr. Obama has also been accused of distortions, but this week Mr. McCain has found himself under particularly heavy fire for a pair of headline-grabbing attacks. First the McCain campaign twisted Mr. Obama’s words to suggest that he had compared Gov. Sarah Palin, the Republican vice-presidential nominee, to a pig after Mr. Obama said, in questioning Mr. McCain’s claim to be the change agent in the race, “You can put lipstick on a pig; it’s still a pig.” (Mr. McCain once used the same expression to describe Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton’s health plan.)

Then he falsely claimed that Mr. Obama supported “comprehensive sex education” for kindergartners (he supported teaching them to be alert for inappropriate advances from adults).

Those attacks followed weeks in which Mr. McCain repeatedly, and incorrectly, asserted that Mr. Obama would raise taxes on the middle class, even though analysts say he would cut taxes on the middle class more than Mr. McCain would, and misrepresented Mr. Obama’s positions on energy and health care.

A McCain advertisement called “Fact Check” was itself found to be “less than honest” by FactCheck.org, a nonpartisan group. The group complained that the McCain campaign had cited its work debunking various Internet rumors about Ms. Palin and implied in the advertisement that the rumors had originated with Mr. Obama.

In an interview Friday on the NY1 cable news channel, a McCain supporter, Senator Orrin G. Hatch of Utah, called “ridiculous” the implication that Mr. Obama’s “lipstick on a pig” comment was a reference to Ms. Palin, whom he also defended as coming under unfair attack.

“The last month, for sure,” said Don Sipple, a Republican advertising strategist, “I think the predominance of liberty taken with truth and the facts has been more McCain than Obama.”

Indeed, in recent days, Mr. McCain has been increasingly called out by news organizations, editorial boards and independent analysts like FactCheck.org. The group, which does not judge whether one candidate is more misleading than another, has cried foul on Mr. McCain more than twice as often since the start of the political conventions as it has on Mr. Obama.

A McCain spokesman, Brian Rogers, said the campaign had evidence for all its claims. “We stand fully by everything that’s in our ads,” Mr. Rogers said, “and everything that we’ve been saying we provide detailed backup for — everything. And if you and the Obama campaign want to disagree, that’s your call.”

Mr. McCain came into the race promoting himself as a truth teller and has long publicly deplored the kinds of negative tactics that helped sink his candidacy in the Republican primaries in 2000. But his strategy now reflects a calculation advisers made this summer — over the strenuous objections of some longtime hands who helped him build his “Straight Talk” image — to shift the campaign more toward disqualifying Mr. Obama in the eyes of voters.

“I think the McCain folks realize if they can get this thing down in the mud, drag Obama into the mud, that’s where they have the best advantage to win,” said Matthew Dowd, who worked with many top McCain campaign advisers when he was President Bush’s chief strategist in the 2004 campaign, but who has since had a falling out with the White House. “If they stay up at 10,000 feet, they don’t.”

For all the criticism, the offensive seems to be having an impact. It has been widely credited by strategists in both parties with rejuvenating Mr. McCain’s campaign and putting Mr. Obama on the defensive since it began early this summer.

Some who have criticized Mr. McCain have accused him of blatant untruths and of failing to correct himself when errors were pointed out.

On Friday on “The View,” generally friendly territory for politicians, one co-host, Joy Behar, criticized his new advertisements. “We know that those two ads are untrue,” Ms. Behar said. “They are lies. And yet you, at the end of it, say, ‘I approve these messages.’ Do you really approve them?”

“Actually they are not lies,” Mr. McCain said crisply, “and have you seen some of the ads that are running against me?”

Mr. Obama’s hands have not always been clean in this regard. He was called out earlier for saying, incorrectly, that Mr. McCain supported a “hundred-year war” in Iraq after Mr. McCain said in January that he would be fine with a hypothetical 100-year American presence in Iraq, as long as Americans were not being injured or killed there.

More recently, Mr. Obama has been criticized for advertisements that have distorted Mr. McCain’s record on schools financing and incorrectly accused him of not supporting loan guarantees for the auto industry — a hot topic in Michigan. He has also taken Mr. McCain’s repeated comments that American economy is “fundamentally sound” out of context, leaving out the fact that Mr. McCain almost always adds at the same time that he understands that times are tough and “people are hurting.”

But sensing an opening in the mounting criticism of Mr. McCain, the Obama campaign released a withering statement after Mr. McCain’s appearance on “The View.”

“In running the sleaziest campaign since South Carolina in 2000 and standing by completely debunked lies on national television, it’s clear that John McCain would rather lose his integrity than lose an election,” Hari Sevugan, a spokesman for the Obama campaign, said in a statement.

At an event in Dover, N.H., a voter asked Mr. Obama when he would start “fighting back.” Mr. Obama, who began his own confrontational advertising campaign Friday, said, “Our ads have been pretty tough, but I just have a different philosophy that I’m going to respond with the truth.”

“I’m not going to start making up lies about John McCain,” Mr. Obama said.

The McCain advertisements are devised to draw the interest of bloggers and cable news producers — but not necessarily always intended for wide, actual use on television stations — to shift the terms of the debate by questioning Mr. Obama’s character and qualifications.

Mr. Sipple, the Republican strategist, voiced concern that Mr. McCain’s approach could backfire. “Any campaign that is taking liberty with the truth and does it in a serial manner will end up paying for it in the end,” he said. “But it’s very unbecoming to a political figure like John McCain whose flag was planted long ago in ground that was about ‘straight talk’ and integrity.”

The campaign has also been selective in its portrayal of Mr. McCain’s running mate, Ms. Palin. The campaign’s efforts to portray her as the bane of federal earmark spending was complicated by evidence that she had sought a great deal of federal money both as governor of Alaska and as mayor of Wasilla.

Ms. Palin has often told audiences about pulling the plug on the so-called Bridge to Nowhere, an expensive federal project to build a bridge to a sparsely populated Alaskan island that became a symbol of wasteful federal spending. “I told Congress, ‘Thanks but no thanks’ for that Bridge to Nowhere in Alaska,” she said this week in Virginia.

But her position was more like “please” before it became “no thanks.” Ms. Palin supported the bridge project while running for governor, and abandoned it after it became a national scandal and Congress said the state could keep the money for other projects. As a mayor and governor, she hired lobbyists to request millions in federal spending for Alaska. In an ABC News interview on Friday with Charles Gibson, Ms. Palin largely stuck to her version of the events.

Disputed characterizations are not uncommon on the trail. At a campaign stop this week in Missouri, Mr. McCain said that Mr. Obama’s plan would “force small businesses to cut jobs and reduce wages and force families into a government-run health care system where a bureaucrat stands between you and your doctor.”

Jonathan B. Oberlander, who teaches health policy at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, said that Mr. Obama’s plan would not force families into a government-run system. “I would say this is an inaccurate and false characterization of the Obama plan,” he said. “I don’t use those words lightly.”

Original here

The Falling Man

Do you remember this photograph? In the United States, people have taken pains to banish it from the record of September 11, 2001. The story behind it, though, and the search for the man pictured in it, are our most intimate connection to the horror of that day.

By Tom Junod

AP Photo/Richard Drew/FILE


Ed. Note: This article originally appeared in the September 2003 issue of Esquire.

*****

In the picture, he departs from this earth like an arrow. Although he has not chosen his fate, he appears to have, in his last instants of life, embraced it. If he were not falling, he might very well be flying. He appears relaxed, hurtling through the air. He appears comfortable in the grip of unimaginable motion. He does not appear intimidated by gravity's divine suction or by what awaits him. His arms are by his side, only slightly outriggered. His left leg is bent at the knee, almost casually. His white shirt, or jacket, or frock, is billowing free of his black pants. His black high-tops are still on his feet. In all the other pictures, the people who did what he did -- who jumped -- appear to be struggling against horrific discrepancies of scale. They are made puny by the backdrop of the towers, which loom like colossi, and then by the event itself. Some of them are shirtless; their shoes fly off as they flail and fall; they look confused, as though trying to swim down the side of a mountain. The man in the picture, by contrast, is perfectly vertical, and so is in accord with the lines of the buildings behind him. He splits them, bisects them: Everything to the left of him in the picture is the North Tower; everything to the right, the South. Though oblivious to the geometric balance he has achieved, he is the essential element in the creation of a new flag, a banner composed entirely of steel bars shining in the sun. Some people who look at the picture see stoicism, willpower, a portrait of resignation; others see something else -- something discordant and therefore terrible: freedom. There is something almost rebellious in the man's posture, as though once faced with the inevitability of death, he decided to get on with it; as though he were a missile, a spear, bent on attaining his own end. He is, fifteen seconds past 9:41 a.m. EST, the moment the picture is taken, in the clutches of pure physics, accelerating at a rate of thirty-two feet per second squared. He will soon be traveling at upwards of 150 miles per hour, and he is upside down. In the picture, he is frozen; in his life outside the frame, he drops and keeps dropping until he disappears.

*****

The photographer is no stranger to history; he knows it is something that happens later. In the actual moment history is made, it is usually made in terror and confusion, and so it is up to people like him -- paid witnesses -- to have the presence of mind to attend to its manufacture. The photographer has that presence of mind and has had it since he was a young man. When he was twenty-one years old, he was standing right behind Bobby Kennedy when Bobby Kennedy was shot in the head. His jacket was spattered with Kennedy's blood, but he jumped on a table and shot pictures of Kennedy's open and ebbing eyes, and then of Ethel Kennedy crouching over her husband and begging photographers -- begging him -- not to take pictures.

Richard Drew has never done that. Although he has preserved the jacket patterned with Kennedy's blood, he has never not taken a picture, never averted his eye. He works for the Associated Press. He is a journalist. It is not up to him to reject the images that fill his frame, because one never knows when history is made until one makes it. It is not even up to him to distinguish if a body is alive or dead, because the camera makes no such distinctions, and he is in the business of shooting bodies, as all photographers are, unless they are Ansel Adams. Indeed, he was shooting bodies on the morning of September 11, 2001. On assignment for the AP, he was shooting a maternity fashion show in Bryant Park, notable, he says, "because it featured actual pregnant models." He was fifty-four years old. He wore glasses. He was sparse in the scalp, gray in the beard, hard in the head. In a lifetime of taking pictures, he has found a way to be both mild-mannered and brusque, patient and very, very quick. He was doing what he always does at fashion shows -- "staking out real estate" -- when a CNN cameraman with an earpiece said that a plane had crashed into the North Tower, and Drew's editor rang his cell phone. He packed his equipment into a bag and gambled on taking the subway downtown. Although it was still running, he was the only one on it. He got out at the Chambers Street station and saw that both towers had been turned into smokestacks. Staking out his real estate, he walked west, to where ambulances were gathering, because rescue workers "usually won't throw you out." Then he heard people gasping. People on the ground were gasping because people in the building were jumping. He started shooting pictures through a 200mm lens. He was standing between a cop and an emergency technician, and each time one of them cried, "There goes another," his camera found a falling body and followed it down for a nine- or twelve-shot sequence. He shot ten or fifteen of them before he heard the rumbling of the South Tower and witnessed, through the winnowing exclusivity of his lens, its collapse. He was engulfed in a mobile ruin, but he grabbed a mask from an ambulance and photographed the top of the North Tower "exploding like a mushroom" and raining debris. He discovered that there is such a thing as being too close, and, deciding that he had fulfilled his professional obligations, Richard Drew joined the throng of ashen humanity heading north, walking until he reached his office at Rockefeller Center.

There was no terror or confusion at the Associated Press. There was, instead, that feeling of history being manufactured; although the office was as crowded as he'd ever seen it, there was, instead, "the wonderful calm that comes into play when people are really doing their jobs." So Drew did his: He inserted the disc from his digital camera into his laptop and recognized, instantly, what only his camera had seen -- something iconic in the extended annihilation of a falling man. He didn't look at any of the other pictures in the sequence; he didn't have to. "You learn in photo editing to look for the frame," he says. "You have to recognize it. That picture just jumped off the screen because of its verticality and symmetry. It just had that look."

He sent the image to the AP's server. The next morning, it appeared on page seven of The New York Times. It appeared in hundreds of newspapers, all over the country, all over the world. The man inside the frame -- the Falling Man -- was not identified.

*****

They began jumping not long after the first plane hit the North Tower, not long after the fire started. They kept jumping until the tower fell. They jumped through windows already broken and then, later, through windows they broke themselves. They jumped to escape the smoke and the fire; they jumped when the ceilings fell and the floors collapsed; they jumped just to breathe once more before they died. They jumped continually, from all four sides of the building, and from all floors above and around the building's fatal wound. They jumped from the offices of Marsh & McLennan, the insurance company; from the offices of Cantor Fitzgerald, the bond-trading company; from Windows on the World, the restaurant on the 106th and 107th floors -- the top. For more than an hour and a half, they streamed from the building, one after another, consecutively rather than en masse, as if each individual required the sight of another individual jumping before mustering the courage to jump himself or herself. One photograph, taken at a distance, shows people jumping in perfect sequence, like parachutists, forming an arc composed of three plummeting people, evenly spaced. Indeed, there were reports that some tried parachuting, before the force generated by their fall ripped the drapes, the tablecloths, the desperately gathered fabric, from their hands. They were all, obviously, very much alive on their way down, and their way down lasted an approximate count of ten seconds. They were all, obviously, not just killed when they landed but destroyed, in body though not, one prays, in soul. One hit a fireman on the ground and killed him; the fireman's body was anointed by Father Mychal Judge, whose own death, shortly thereafter, was embraced as an example of martyrdom after the photograph -- the redemptive tableau -- of firefighters carrying his body from the rubble made its way around the world.

From the beginning, the spectacle of doomed people jumping from the upper floors of the World Trade Center resisted redemption. They were called "jumpers" or "the jumpers," as though they represented a new lemminglike class. The trial that hundreds endured in the building and then in the air became its own kind of trial for the thousands watching them from the ground. No one ever got used to it; no one who saw it wished to see it again, although, of course, many saw it again. Each jumper, no matter how many there were, brought fresh horror, elicited shock, tested the spirit, struck a lasting blow. Those tumbling through the air remained, by all accounts, eerily silent; those on the ground screamed. It was the sight of the jumpers that prompted Rudy Giuliani to say to his police commissioner, "We're in uncharted waters now." It was the sight of the jumpers that prompted a woman to wail, "God! Save their souls! They're jumping! Oh, please God! Save their souls!" And it was, at last, the sight of the jumpers that provided the corrective to those who insisted on saying that what they were witnessing was "like a movie," for this was an ending as unimaginable as it was unbearable: Americans responding to the worst terrorist attack in the history of the world with acts of heroism, with acts of sacrifice, with acts of generosity, with acts of martyrdom, and, by terrible necessity, with one prolonged act of -- if these words can be applied to mass murder -- mass suicide.

*****

In most American newspapers, the photograph that Richard Drew took of the Falling Man ran once and never again. Papers all over the country, from the Fort Worth Star-Telegram to the Memphis Commercial Appeal to The Denver Post, were forced to defend themselves against charges that they exploited a man's death, stripped him of his dignity, invaded his privacy, turned tragedy into leering pornography. Most letters of complaint stated the obvious: that someone seeing the picture had to know who it was. Still, even as Drew's photograph became at once iconic and impermissible, its subject remained unnamed. An editor at the Toronto Globe and Mail assigned a reporter named Peter Cheney to solve the mystery. Cheney at first despaired of his task; the entire city, after all, was wallpapered with Kinkoed flyers advertising the faces of the missing and the lost and the dead. Then he applied himself, sending the digital photograph to a shop that clarified and enhanced it. Now information emerged: It appeared to him that the man was most likely not black but dark-skinned, probably Latino. He wore a goatee. And the white shirt billowing from his black pants was not a shirt but rather appeared to be a tunic of some sort, the kind of jacket a restaurant worker wears. Windows on the World, the restaurant at the top of the North Tower, lost seventy-nine of its employees on September 11, as well as ninety-one of its patrons. It was likely that the Falling Man numbered among them. But which one was he? Over dinner, Cheney spent an evening discussing this question with friends, then said goodnight and walked through Times Square. It was after midnight, eight days after the attacks. The missing posters were still everywhere, but Cheney was able to focus on one that seemed to present itself to him -- a poster portraying a man who worked at Windows as a pastry chef, who was dressed in a white tunic, who wore a goatee, who was Latino. His name was Norberto Hernandez. He lived in Queens. Cheney took the enhanced print of the Richard Drew photograph to the family, in particular to Norberto Hernandez's brother Tino and sister Milagros. They said yes, that was Norberto. Milagros had watched footage of the people jumping on that terrible morning, before the television stations stopped showing it. She had seen one of the jumpers distinguished by the grace of his fall -- by his resemblance to an Olympic diver -- and surmised that he had to be her brother. Now she saw, and she knew. All that remained was for Peter Cheney to confirm the identification with Norberto's wife and his three daughters. They did not want to talk to him, especially after Norberto's remains were found and identified by the stamp of his DNA -- a torso, an arm. So he went to the funeral. He brought his print of Drew's photograph with him and showed it to Jacqueline Hernandez, the oldest of Norberto's three daughters. She looked briefly at the picture, then at Cheney, and ordered him to leave.

What Cheney remembers her saying, in her anger, in her offended grief: "That piece of shit is not my father."

*****

The resistance to the image -- to the images -- started early, started immediately, started on the ground. A mother whispering to her distraught child a consoling lie: "Maybe they're just birds, honey." Bill Feehan, second in command at the fire department, chasing a bystander who was panning the jumpers with his video camera, demanding that he turn it off, bellowing, "Don't you have any human decency?" before dying himself when the building came down. In the most photographed and videotaped day in the history of the world, the images of people jumping were the only images that became, by consensus, taboo -- the only images from which Americans were proud to avert their eyes. All over the world, people saw the human stream debouch from the top of the North Tower, but here in the United States, we saw these images only until the networks decided not to allow such a harrowing view, out of respect for the families of those so publicly dying. At CNN, the footage was shown live, before people working in the newsroom knew what was happening; then, after what Walter Isaacson, who was then chairman of the network's news bureau, calls "agonized discussions" with the "standards guy," it was shown only if people in it were blurred and unidentifiable; then it was not shown at all.

And so it went. In 9/11, the documentary extracted from videotape shot by French brothers Jules and Gedeon Naudet, the filmmakers included a sonic sampling of the booming, rattling explosions the jumpers made upon impact but edited out the most disturbing thing about the sounds: the sheer frequency with which they occurred. In Rudy, the docudrama starring James Woods in the role of Mayor Giuliani, archival footage of the jumpers was first included, then cut out. In Here Is New York, an extensive exhibition of 9/11 images culled from the work of photographers both amateur and professional, there was, in the section titled "Victims," but one picture of the jumpers, taken at a respectful distance; attached to it, on the Here Is New York Website, a visitor offers this commentary: "This image is what made me glad for censuring [sic] in the endless pursuant media coverage." More and more, the jumpers -- and their images -- were relegated to the Internet underbelly, where they became the provenance of the shock sites that also traffic in the autopsy photos of Nicole Brown Simpson and the videotape of Daniel Pearl's execution, and where it is impossible to look at them without attendant feelings of shame and guilt. In a nation of voyeurs, the desire to face the most disturbing aspects of our most disturbing day was somehow ascribed to voyeurism, as though the jumpers' experience, instead of being central to the horror, was tangential to it, a sideshow best forgotten.

It was no sideshow. The two most reputable estimates of the number of people who jumped to their deaths were prepared by The New York Times and USA Today. They differed dramatically. The Times, admittedly conservative, decided to count only what its reporters actually saw in the footage they collected, and it arrived at a figure of fifty. USA Today, whose editors used eyewitness accounts and forensic evidence in addition to what they found on video, came to the conclusion that at least two hundred people died by jumping -- a count that the newspaper said authorities did not dispute. Both are intolerable estimates of human loss, but if the number provided by USA Today is accurate, then between 7 and 8 percent of those who died in New York City on September 11, 2001, died by jumping out of the buildings; it means that if we consider only the North Tower, where the vast majority of jumpers came from, the ratio is more like one in six.

And yet if one calls the New York Medical Examiner's Office to learn its own estimate of how many people might have jumped, one does not get an answer but an admonition: "We don't like to say they jumped. They didn't jump. Nobody jumped. They were forced out, or blown out." And if one Googles the words "how many jumped on 9/11," one falls into some blogger's trap, slugged "Go Away, No Jumpers Here," where the bait is one's own need to know: "I've got at least three entries in my referrer logs that show someone is doing a search on Google for 'how many people jumped from WTC.' My September 11 post had made mention of that terrible occurance [sic], so now any pervert looking for that will get my site's URL. I'm disgusted. I tried, but cannot find any reason someone would want to know something like that.... Whatever. If that's why you're here -- you're busted. Now go away."

*****

Eric Fischl did not go away. Neither did he turn away or avert his eyes. A year before September 11, he had taken photographs of a model tumbling around on the floor of a studio. He had thought of using the photographs as the basis of a sculpture. Now, though, he had lost a friend who had been trapped on the 106th floor of the North Tower. Now, as he worked on his sculpture, he sought to express the extremity of his feelings by making a monument to what he calls the "extremity of choice" faced by the people who jumped. He worked nine months on the larger-than-life bronze he called Tumbling Woman, and as he transformed a woman tumbling on the floor into a woman tumbling through eternity, he succeeded in transfiguring the very local horror of the jumpers into something universal -- in redeeming an image many regarded as irredeemable. Indeed, Tumbling Woman was perhaps the redemptive image of 9/11 -- and yet it was not merely resisted; it was rejected. The day after Tumbling Woman was exhibited in New York's Rockefeller Center, Andrea Peyser of the New York Post denounced it in a column titled "Shameful Art Attack," in which she argued that Fischl had no right to ambush grieving New Yorkers with the very distillation of their own sadness...in which she essentially argued the right to look away. Because it was based on a model rolling on the floor, the statue was treated as an evocation of impact -- as a portrayal of literal, rather than figurative, violence.

"I was trying to say something about the way we all feel," Fischl says, "but people thought I was trying to say something about the way they feel -- that I was trying to take away something only they possessed. They thought that I was trying to say something about the people they lost. 'That image is not my father. You don't even know my father. How dare you try telling me how I feel about my father?' " Fischl wound up apologizing -- "I was ashamed to have added to anybody's pain" -- but it didn't matter.

Jerry Speyer, a trustee of the Museum of Modern Art who runs Rockefeller Center, ended the exhibition of Tumbling Woman after a week. "I pleaded with him not to do it," Fischl says. "I thought that if we could wait it out, other voices would pipe up and carry the day. He said, 'You don't understand. I'm getting bomb threats.' I said, 'People who just lost loved ones to terrorism are not going to bomb somebody.' He said, 'I can't take that chance.' "

*****

Photographs lie. Even great photographs. Especially great photographs. The Falling Man in Richard Drew's picture fell in the manner suggested by the photograph for only a fraction of a second, and then kept falling. The photograph functioned as a study of doomed verticality, a fantasia of straight lines, with a human being slivered at the center, like a spike. In truth, however, the Falling Man fell with neither the precision of an arrow nor the grace of an Olympic diver. He fell like everyone else, like all the other jumpers -- trying to hold on to the life he was leaving, which is to say that he fell desperately, inelegantly. In Drew's famous photograph, his humanity is in accord with the lines of the buildings. In the rest of the sequence -- the eleven outtakes -- his humanity stands apart. He is not augmented by aesthetics; he is merely human, and his humanity, startled and in some cases horizontal, obliterates everything else in the frame.

In the complete sequence of photographs, truth is subordinate to the facts that emerge slowly, pitilessly, frame by frame. In the sequence, the Falling Man shows his face to the camera in the two frames before the published one, and after that there is an unveiling, nearly an unpeeling, as the force generated by the fall rips the white jacket off his back. The facts that emerge from the entire sequence suggest that the Toronto reporter, Peter Cheney, got some things right in his effort to solve the mystery presented by Drew's published photo. The Falling Man has a dark cast to his skin and wears a goatee. He is probably a food-service worker. He seems lanky, with the length and narrowness of his face -- like that of a medieval Christ -- possibly accentuated by the push of the wind and the pull of gravity. But seventy-nine people died on the morning of September 11 after going to work at Windows on the World. Another twenty-one died while in the employ of Forte Food, a catering service that fed the traders at Cantor Fitzgerald. Many of the dead were Latino, or light-skinned black men, or Indian, or Arab. Many had dark hair cut short. Many had mustaches and goatees. Indeed, to anyone trying to figure out the identity of the Falling Man, the few salient characteristics that can be discerned in the original series of photographs raise as many possibilities as they exclude. There is, however, one fact that is decisive. Whoever the Falling Man may be, he was wearing a bright-orange shirt under his white top. It is the one inarguable fact that the brute force of the fall reveals. No one can know if the tunic or shirt, open at the back, is being pulled away from him, or if the fall is simply tearing the white fabric to pieces. But anyone can see he is wearing an orange shirt. If they saw these pictures, members of his family would be able to see that he is wearing an orange shirt. They might even be able to remember if he owned an orange shirt, if he was the kind of guy who would own an orange shirt, if he wore an orange shirt to work that morning. Surely they would; surely someone would remember what he was wearing when he went to work on the last morning of his life....

But now the Falling Man is falling through more than the blank blue sky. He is falling through the vast spaces of memory and picking up speed.

*****

Neil Levin, executive director of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, had breakfast at Windows on the World, on the 106th floor of the World Trade Center's North Tower, on the morning of September 11. He never came home. His wife, Christy Ferer, won't talk about any of the particulars of his death. She works for New York mayor Mike Bloomberg as the liaison between the mayor's office and the 9/11 families and has poured the energy aroused by her grief into her work, which, before the first anniversary of the attack, called for her to visit television executives and ask them not to use the most disturbing footage -- including the footage of the jumpers -- in their memorial broadcasts. She is a close friend of Eric Fischl's, as was her husband, so when the artist asked, she agreed to take a look at Tumbling Woman. It, in her words, "hit me in the gut," but she felt that Fischl had the right to create and exhibit it. Now she's come to the conclusion that the controversy may have been largely a matter of timing. Maybe it was just too soon to show something like that. After all, not long before her husband died, she traveled with him to Auschwitz, where piles of confiscated eyeglasses and extracted tooth fillings are on exhibit. "They can show that now," she says. "But that was a long time ago. They couldn't show things like that then...."

In fact, they did, at least in photographic form, and the pictures that came out of the death camps of Europe were treated as essential acts of witness, without particular regard to the sensitivities of those who appeared in them or the surviving families of the dead. They were shown, as Richard Drew's photographs of the freshly assassinated Robert Kennedy were shown. They were shown, as the photographs of Ethel Kennedy pleading with photographers not to take photographs were shown. They were shown as the photograph of the little Vietnamese girl running naked after a napalm attack was shown. They were shown as the photograph of Father Mychal Judge, graphically and unmistakably dead, was shown, and accepted as a kind of testament. They were shown as everything is shown, for, like the lens of a camera, history is a force that does not discriminate. What distinguishes the pictures of the jumpers from the pictures that have come before is that we -- we Americans -- are being asked to discriminate on their behalf. What distinguishes them, historically, is that we, as patriotic Americans, have agreed not to look at them. Dozens, scores, maybe hundreds of people died by leaping from a burning building, and we have somehow taken it upon ourselves to deem their deaths unworthy of witness -- because we have somehow deemed the act of witness, in this one regard, unworthy of us.

*****

Catherine Hernandez never saw the photo the reporter carried under his arm at her father's funeral. Neither did her mother, Eulogia. Her sister Jacqueline did, and her outrage assured that the reporter left -- was forcibly evicted -- before he did any more damage. But the picture has followed Catherine and Eulogia and the entire Hernandez family. There was nothing more important to Norberto Hernandez than family. His motto: "Together Forever." But the Hernandezes are not together anymore. The picture split them. Those who knew, right away, that the picture was not Norberto -- his wife and his daughters -- have become estranged from those who pondered the possibility that it was him for the benefit of a reporter's notepad. With Norberto alive, the extended family all lived in the same neighborhood in Queens. Now Eulogia and her daughters have moved to a house on Long Island because Tatiana -- who is now sixteen and who bears a resemblance to Norberto Hernandez: the wide face, the dark brows, the thick dark lips, thinly smiling -- kept seeing visions of her father in the house and kept hearing the whispered suggestions that he died by jumping out a window.

He could not have died by jumping out a window.

All over the world, people who read Peter Cheney's story believe that Norberto died by jumping out a window. People have written poems about Norberto jumping out a window. People have called the Hernandezes with offers of money -- either charity or payment for interviews -- because they read about Norberto jumping out a window. But he couldn't have jumped out a window, his family knows, because he wouldn't have jumped out a window: not Papi. "He was trying to come home," Catherine says one morning, in a living room primarily decorated with framed photographs of her father. "He was trying to come home to us, and he knew he wasn't going to make it by jumping out a window." She is a lovely, dark-skinned, brown-eyed girl, twenty-two years old, dressed in a T-shirt and sweats and sandals. She is sitting on a couch next to her mother, who is caramel-colored, with coppery hair tied close to her scalp, and who is wearing a cotton dress checked with the color of the sky. Eulogia speaks half the time in determined English, and then, when she gets frustrated with the rate of revelation, pours rapid-fire Spanish into the ear of her daughter, who translates. "My mother says she knows that when he died, he was thinking about us. She says that she could see him thinking about us. I know that sounds strange, but she knew him. They were together since they were fifteen." The Norberto Hernandez Eulogia knew would not have been deterred by smoke or by fire in his effort to come home to her. The Norberto Hernandez she knew would have endured any pain before he jumped out of a window. When the Norberto Hernandez she knew died, his eyes were fixed on what he saw in his heart -- the faces of his wife and his daughters -- and not on the terrible beauty of an empty sky.

How well did she know him? "I dressed him," Eulogia says in English, a smile appearing on her face at the same time as a shiny coat of tears. "Every morning. That morning, I remember. He wore Old Navy underwear. Green. He wore black socks. He wore blue pants: jeans. He wore a Casio watch. He wore an Old Navy shirt. Blue. With checks." What did he wear after she drove him, as she always did, to the subway station and watched him wave to her as he disappeared down the stairs? "He changed clothes at the restaurant," says Catherine, who worked with her father at Windows on the World. "He was a pastry chef, so he wore white pants, or chef's pants -- you know, black-and-white check. He wore a white jacket. Under that, he had to wear a white T-shirt." What about an orange shirt? "No," Eulogia says. "My husband did not have an orange shirt."

There are pictures. There are pictures of the Falling Man as he fell. Do they want to see them? Catherine says no, on her mother's behalf -- "My mother should not see" -- but then, when she steps outside and sits down on the steps of the front porch, she says, "Please -- show me. Hurry. Before my mother comes." When she sees the twelve-frame sequence, she lets out a gasping, muted call for her mother, but Eulogia is already over her shoulder, reaching for the pictures. She looks at them one after another, and then her face fixes itself into an expression of triumph and scorn. "That is not my husband," she says, handing the photographs back. "You see? Only I know Norberto." She reaches for the photographs again, and then, after studying them, shakes her head with a vehement finality. "The man in this picture is a black man." She asks for copies of the pictures so that she can show them to the people who believed that Norberto jumped out a window, while Catherine sits on the step with her palm spread over her heart. "They said my father was going to hell because he jumped," she says. "On the Internet. They said my father was taken to hell with the devil. I don't know what I would have done if it was him. I would have had a nervous breakdown, I guess. They would have found me in a mental ward somewhere...."

Her mother is standing at the front door, about to go back inside her house. Her face has already lost its belligerent pride and has turned once again into a mask of composed, almost wistful sadness. "Please," she says as she closes the door in a stain of morning sunlight. "Please clear my husband's name."

A phone rings in Connecticut. A woman answers. A man on the other end is looking to identify a photo that ran in The New York Times on September 12, 2001. "Tell me what the photo looks like," she says. It's a famous picture, the man says -- the famous picture of a man falling. "Is it the one called 'Swan Dive' on Rotten.com? the woman asks. It may be, the man says. "Yes, that might have been my son," the woman says.

She lost both her sons on September 11. They worked together at Cantor Fitzgerald. They worked on the equities desk. They worked back-to-back. No, the man on the phone says, the man in the photograph is probably a food-service worker. He's wearing a white jacket. He's upside down. "Then that's not my son," she says. "My son was wearing a dark shirt and khaki pants."

She knows what he was wearing because of her determination to know what happened to her sons on that day -- because of her determination to look and to see. She did not start with that determination. She stopped reading the newspaper after September 11, stopped watching TV. Then, on New Year's Eve, she picked up a copy of The New York Times and saw, in a year-end review, a picture of Cantor Fitzgerald employees crowding the edge of the cliff formed by a dying building. In the posture -- the attitude -- of one of them, she thought she recognized the habits of her son. So she called the photographer and asked him to enlarge and clarify the picture. Demanded that he do it. And then she knew, or knew as much as it was possible to know. Both of her sons were in the picture. One was standing in the window, almost brazenly. The other was sitting inside. She does not need to say what may have happened next.

"The thing I hold was that both of my sons were together," she says, her instantaneous tears lifting her voice an octave. "But I sometimes wonder how long they knew. They're puzzled, they're uncertain, they're scared -- but when did they know? When did the moment come when they lost hope? Maybe it came so quick...."

The man on the phone does not ask if she thinks her sons jumped. He does not have it in him, and anyway, she has given him an answer.

The Hernandezes looked at the decision to jump as a betrayal of love -- as something Norberto was being accused of. The woman in Connecticut looks at the decision to jump as a loss of hope -- as an absence that we, the living, now have to live with. She chooses to live with it by looking, by seeing, by trying to know -- by making an act of private witness. She could have chosen to keep her eyes closed. And so now the man on the phone asks the question that he called to ask in the first place: Did she make the right choice?

"I made the only choice I could have made," the woman answers. "I could never have made the choice not to know."

Catherine Hernandez thought she knew who the Falling Man was as soon as she saw the series of pictures, but she wouldn't say his name. "He had a sister who was with him that morning," she said, "and he told his mother that he would take care of her. He would never have left her alone by jumping." She did say, however, that the man was Indian, so it was easy to figure out that his name was Sean Singh. But Sean was too small to be the Falling Man. He was clean-shaven. He worked at Windows on the World in the audiovisual department, so he probably would have been wearing a shirt and tie instead of a white chef's coat. None of the former Windows employees who were interviewed believe the Falling Man looks anything like Sean Singh.

Besides, he had a sister. He never would have left her alone.

A manager at Windows looked at the pictures once and said the Falling Man was Wilder Gomez. Then a few days later he studied them closely and changed his mind. Wrong hair. Wrong clothes. Wrong body type. It was the same with Charlie Mauro. It was the same with Junior Jimenez. Junior worked in the kitchen and would have been wearing checked pants. Charlie worked in purchasing and had no cause to wear a white jacket. Besides, Charlie was a very large man. The Falling Man appears fairly stout in Richard Drew's published photo but almost elongated in the rest of the sequence.

The rest of the kitchen workers were, like Norberto Hernandez, eliminated from consideration by their outfits. The banquet servers may have been wearing white and black, but no one remembered any banquet server who looked anything like the Falling Man.

Forte Food was the other food-service company that lost people on September 11, 2001. But all of its male employees worked in the kitchen, which means that they wore either checked or white pants. And nobody would have been allowed to wear an orange shirt under the white serving coat.

But someone who used to work for Forte remembers a guy who used to come around and get food for the Cantor executives. Black guy. Tall, with a mustache and a goatee. Wore a chef's coat, open, with a loud shirt underneath.

Nobody at Cantor remembers anyone like that.

Of course, the only way to find out the identity of the Falling Man is to call the families of anyone who might be the Falling Man and ask what they know about their son's or husband's or father's last day on earth. Ask if he went to work wearing an orange shirt.

But should those calls be made? Should those questions be asked? Would they only heap pain upon the already anguished? Would they be regarded as an insult to the memory of the dead, the way the Hernandez family regarded the imputation that Norberto Hernandez was the Falling Man? Or would they be regarded as steps to some act of redemptive witness?

Jonathan Briley worked at Windows on the World. Some of his coworkers, when they saw Richard Drew's photographs, thought he might be the Falling Man. He was a light-skinned black man. He was over six five. He was forty-three. He had a mustache and a goatee and close-cropped hair. He had a wife named Hillary.

Jonathan Briley's father is a preacher, a man who has devoted his whole life to serving the Lord. After September 11, he gathered his family together to ask God to tell him where his son was. No: He demanded it. He used these words: "Lord, I demand to know where my son is." For three hours straight, he prayed in his deep voice, until he spent the grace he had accumulated over a lifetime in the insistence of his appeal.

The next day, the FBI called. They'd found his son's body. It was, miraculously, intact.

The preacher's youngest son, Timothy, went to identify his brother. He recognized him by his shoes: He was wearing black high-tops. Timothy removed one of them and took it home and put it in his garage, as a kind of memorial.

Timothy knew all about the Falling Man. He is a cop in Mount Vernon, New York, and in the week after his brother died, someone had left a September 12 newspaper open in the locker room. He saw the photograph of the Falling Man and, in anger, he refused to look at it again. But he couldn't throw it away. Instead, he stuffed it in the bottom of his locker, where -- like the black shoe in his garage -- it became permanent.

Jonathan's sister Gwendolyn knew about the Falling Man, too. She saw the picture the day it was published. She knew that Jonathan had asthma, and in the smoke and the heat would have done anything just to breathe....

The both of them, Timothy and Gwendolyn, knew what Jonathan wore to work on most days. He wore a white shirt and black pants, along with the high-top black shoes. Timothy also knew what Jonathan sometimes wore under his shirt: an orange T-shirt. Jonathan wore that orange T-shirt everywhere. He wore that shirt all the time. He wore it so often that Timothy used to make fun of him: When are you gonna get rid of that orange T-shirt, Slim?

But when Timothy identified his brother's body, none of his clothes were recognizable except the black shoes. And when Jonathan went to work on the morning of September 11, 2001, he'd left early and kissed his wife goodbye while she was still sleeping. She never saw the clothes he was wearing. After she learned that he was dead, she packed his clothes away and never inventoried what specific articles of clothing might be missing.

Is Jonathan Briley the Falling Man? He might be. But maybe he didn't jump from the window as a betrayal of love or because he lost hope. Maybe he jumped to fulfill the terms of a miracle. Maybe he jumped to come home to his family. Maybe he didn't jump at all, because no one can jump into the arms of God.

Oh, no. You have to fall.

Yes, Jonathan Briley might be the Falling Man. But the only certainty we have is the certainty we had at the start: 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.


Additional reporting by Andrew Chaikivsky.

Original here