“Falling Man”: A 9/11 Song of Remembrance

Note: this article contains a famous but potentially disturbing image from the tragedy that took place on 9/11/2001. The embedded video also contains 9/11 images that may be disturbing for some viewers.

Randy Brown received a phone call in the spring of 2011 as our country prepared to mark the 10th anniversary of the September 11th attacks.

Prayers, lectures, a local children’s choir, military honorifics and a commemorative song were planned by a group of local leaders in Tyler for an anniversary vigil. That was where Brown came in.

Brown is a Mineola-based singer/songwriter. After years of working in information technology and related fields, he finds himself most at ease as a songwriter and poetic lyricist. His musical style is folk/Americana, and he is one of East Texas’ most prolific singer/songwriters.

Years ago, he formed the folk, swing and jazz combo “Jealousy Motel” with local musicians John DeFoore and Dirje Childs.

📷 courtesy Randy Brown

Brown continued to write and produce songs after going solo. He has performed at a number of folk festivals across the country, including Kerrville Folk Festival, where he’s currently a New Folk finalist. He has also taken the stage at the Rocky Mountain and South Florida Folk Festivals, among others.

Brown has received numerous awards for his work, including the New Traditions Award, the TIME Songwriting Competition and the BW Stevenson Songwriter Contest.

Over his decades of writing and performing, Brown has created his unique style.

Then, in 2011, there was the request to write a 9/11 memorial song for an event that didn’t happen. Brown was left with the song he’d composed for it. “I was left with a song that seemed significant, but no one to hear it,” said Brown.

It is called “Falling Man,” a thoughtful mediation on a famous photograph taken on September 11, 2001.

It is reported that between 100-200 souls leaped from the World Trade Center buildings when they were engulfed in flames on the morning of the attacks in New York.

Richard Drew, an Associated Press photographer, took a now-famous photo of one of the individuals who jumped or fell from the North Tower at 9:41 a.m.

The photograph, titled “Falling Man,” is a striking image. Despite the fact that the individual in the photograph was never recognized, it remains one of the most disturbing photographs from that day.

Brown said, “For me, more than any other, that photo finally pierced all my interior armor and drove home the horror and inhumanity of that infamous day.”

The Falling Man. 📷 Richard Drew, courtesy Associated Press

Brown wrote his 9/11 commemoration piece honoring that man.

From the lyrics:

And the ashes rose as his spirit flew
God looked down upon us and his tears fell too.
Like the falling man

In 2011, he recorded a home demo of the song, but the anniversary event was canceled.

Brown has kept the song with him all these years, occasionally performing it for audiences when the chance arose. Brown recently recorded the “Falling Man” song in the studio in anticipation of the 20th anniversary of the attacks, as part of a wider musical project due next year.

To commemorate the occasion, he is releasing the song as a single September 10th. The accompanying video of the new recording, along with visuals from that day, is included below.

May we commemorate all those who died in the September 11th terrorist strikes, including the Falling Man, with this song.

Neal Katz serves as rabbi at Congregation Beth El in Tyler, TX. In 2003, he was ordained at Hebrew Union College-Jewish of Religion in Cincinnati, Ohio.

Originally from Virginia Beach, Virginia, Katz is a singer/songwriter and music producer. He has taught courses in Introduction to Judaism and Jewish Philosophy at TJC and UT Tyler. He serves on numerous local non-profit boards and has won the T.B. Butler Award and The W.C. Windsor Awards from the Tyler Chamber of Conference for outstanding community service.

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