Two things today. Esquire has re-published the article by Tom Junod, “The Falling Man,” which was originally published in Esquire on September 2003 about a photograph, also called “The Falling Man,” of a man falling from the North Tower of the World Trade Center fifteen years ago today. Like a few other subjects—a beheading in the desert, a death in Vietnam—“the falling man” has stopped our mouths.

The theme of Junod’s article is that what we are seeing in this photograph is so horrific and has such awesome implications, that some people just turn away. Some people think that jumping from the North Tower violates the commandment against self-murder. Some people don’t want to look inside that mirror.

A reporter calls a woman in Connecticut (the only way she is described in Junod’s article) and asks her whether she has made the “right choice,” which was to know all she could know about the moment before the people jumped and their loss of hope. One of these people might be one of her two sons who died that day. She says she “chooses to live with it by looking, by seeing, by trying to know—by making an act of private witness….I made the only choice I could have made,” the woman says. “I could never have made the choice not to know.”

And then, in that random way of the web, I found myself today reading an article in The New York Review of Books, by Maya Lin, the woman who designed the Vietnam War Memorial on the National Mall in Washington. She speaks of the controversies surrounding her choice as the designer and the design itself—a black granite, minimalist slash in the earth. She says that much of the negative response to the memorial arises out of the very natural desire “to cover up or not acknowledge that which is painful or unpleasant.” Now, thirty-four years later, the Vietnam War Memorial is seen to be one of the most intensely personal and moving places in Washington. And this may be because it is a memorial to loss, to all the millions of moments of intimacy between the person standing at the black wall, looking at a name incised in the black granite, and the life of the person who is dead. Lin, speaking of the mirror-like finish of the black granite wall with the names, says, “The wall dematerializes as a form and allows the names to become the object, a pure and reflective surface that would allow visitors the chance to see themselves with the names. I do not think I thought of the color black as a color, more as the idea of a dark mirror into a shadowed mirrored image of the space, a space we cannot enter and from which the names separate us, an interface between the world of the living and the world of the dead.”

Well. And as often happens when I am deeply moved by the concerns of some other person, I find myself thinking of my own life, in which, since 1984, I have been immersed in an effort to remember and to record how it has been for LGBTQ people since World War II.

Tom Junod ends his article on The Falling Man with this sentence: “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.”