Last-second Tourist Snapshot of WTC Plane Faked

The dramatic photo that depicts a blissfully unaware tourist smiling for a snapshot moments before a hijacked 767 smashed into Tower 1 of the World Trade Center is a hoax.

It’s amazing what a jackass with too much time and access to Photoshop can do. This photo is a fake that plays upon the public’s desire to believe the unbelievable (which I really can’t fault them for, since the attack itself is so incomprehensible).

Here’s the text of the hoax. Scroll down for the debunking.

This is just incredible… The story behind this picture is “A photo from a camera with pictures that had been taken on the trade building of a tourist and the plane is heading behind him to hit the building. The camera was found by rescue workers and developed. I received this e-mail from a retired firefighter neighbor of ours who received it from a firefighter he worked with in Coronado, CA. He volunteered to be on the search and rescue mission and is there for 10 days. It is hard to believe it when you see it and wonder if the person taking the picture realized the plane was going to hit the center. They still don’t know who the person is.”

Snopes.com and About.com’s Urban Legends Guide have excellent debunkings of this, so I’ll sum up their points here and encourage everyone to visit their sites for the complete debunking.

  • Wrong Tower: The picture shows the approach of a plane on the northern side of one of the towers. The only plane that came from the north was the one that hit Tower 1 … but Tower 1 did not have an observation Deck. Tower 2 does … but it didn’t open until 9:30 a.m., well after the first and second attacks. (source: snopes.com)
  • Wrong Plane: The plane in the picture is a Boeing 757. The plane that crashed was a Boeing 767. (source: snopes.com)
  • Where’s the news? The mainstream press is going nuts looking for new angles for the 9/11 attacks. If this had really happened, it would be all over the news — we’d know who the guy in the picture was and the press would have interviewed every one they could find, from his mom and dad to his goldfish.
  • Why is this guy wearing a winter jacket? September 11, 2001 was a warm, Indian summer day. I know — I was sitting in traffic on I-287 in New Jersey when it happened. Granted, the top of the Trade Center might be cooler thanks to wind, but it’s unlikely this guy would be wearing a winter jacket.

Those are the easy marks; for far more comprehensive assaults on this travesty of computer editing, check out these debunkings:

  • Snopes.com: The perennial urban legends site nails this hoax with a detailed debunking.
  • Urbanlegends.about.com: About.com’s Urban Legends Guide tears apart the hoax as well, pointing out its many inconsistencies.
  • CSICOP: This debunking by the Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal draws heavily on the snopes.com debunking. It includes several other 9/11 related debunkings.