Example: [Collected via e-mail, September 2001]
A simple tourist getting himself photographed on the top of the WTC just seconds before the
Origins: The online world is fraught with clever photo manipulations that often provoke gales of laughter in those who view them, put together by pranksters acting on a lark. However, prompted by lighthearted motives or not, this photo sparked sensations of horror in those who viewed it in the days immediately following the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the United States. The image seemingly captured the last fraction of a second of a man's
The picture ripped away the healing distance brought by the nearly two weeks between the attacks and the appearance of this grim reminder, leaving the sheer horror of the moment once again raw and bared to the wind. Whether or not the picture was real, the emotions it stirred up certainly were. It was because of those emotions that the photograph began to speed from inbox to inbox at the end of
However, aside from all the digital imperfections in the image (e.g., shadows of different objects don't correspond to the same light source, the date-time stamp is the wrong type of font), a number of logistical errors proved it to be suspect beyond credibility:
September 11was a warm and sunny late summer day, not the type of weather in which a tourist would have been decked out in a winter coat and hat.
- The airliner shown in the picture is approaching from the north and would therefore have been the plane that hit the north tower of the World Trade Center (WTC1), but WTC1 did not have an outdoor observation deck. The south tower (WTC2) included an indoor observation deck on the
107th floorand an outdoor deck above the 110th floor,but WTC1 housed only Windows on the World, an indoor restaurant with a magnificent view of the city but no outdoor deck.
- The operating hours in September for the WTC2 observatories were
9:30 A.M.to 9:30 P.M., meaning they opened too late for a tourist to have been present on one of them on September 11before the first plane hit the WTC at 8:49 A.M.
- The aircraft shown is a
Boeing 757bearing American Airline markings, but Flight 11,the only American flight to crash into the World Trade Center, was a 767. (The 767 is a wide-body jet; the 757 is a smaller, standard-body craft. This photograph on Airliners.net, from which the image of the plane used here was probably taken, is of a Boeing 757.)
Although the photo itself was quickly debunked as a digital manipulation, one looming mystery remained: Who was the tourist whose likeness appeared in the image?
A few weeks later, a Hungarian man named Peter staked a much better claim to the
Last updated: 11 September 2013
Benner, Jeffrey. "'Tourist Guy': Is He or Isn't He?." Wired.com. 9 November 2001. Benner, Jeffrey. "He's the Real Tourist Guy." Wired.com. 20 November 2001.