The atrocity was carried out by 19 al-Qaeda terrorists, who used four hijacked passenger jets to destroy the Twin Towers in New York City and attack the Pentagon, with huge loss of life on board and on the ground.
After 15 years, the physical impact at the three crash sights has long disappeared. The doomed Twin Towers and the shocking pile of rubble following their collapse have been replaced by a symbolic new skyscraper, the Pentagon’s obliterated western edge has been repaired and the scarred earth in Pennsylvania has been revitalised by the passing of time.
The thousands of photos and video clips taken during the horrific morning, however, continue to have a lasting impact – a truth best encapsulated by a photograph known as ‘The Falling Man’.
The chilling image shows a man in business attire hurtling headfirst towards the ground, with the grey North Tower acting as the background.
The man, one of as many as 200 victims of the attack known as ‘jumpers’, had chosen to escape the fire and smoke of the building by throwing himself to his death – or potentially had been blown out of the window by the force of an explosion.
As detailed by the Daily Star Sunday, the identity, 15 years on, remains a mystery, despite numerous attempts to identify him.
US reporter Peter Cheney believes the man was Norberto Hernandez, a pastry chef at the Windows on the World restaurant.
While his family initially believed he was the falling man, after analysing other images in the series they changed their mind.
Another possibility is that the man was Jonathan Briley, who also worked in the Windows on the World. One photo showed the man’s shirt blown open, revealing a bright orange t-shirt, a type Mr Briley often wore.
His sister Gwendolyn said: “When I first looked at the picture and I saw it was a man—tall, slim—I said, ‘If I didn’t know any better, that could be Jonathan.”
However, this has still not been confirmed and it likely never will be. The image will instead symbolise every one of the thousands of victims who were killed in horrific circumstances 15 years ago this morning.
A fourth hijacked plane was heading towards Washington DC when its heroic passengers overcame the jihadis, causing a crash in the quiet countryside of Pennsylvania but saving countless lives in the US capital.