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Who was Karen Juday? 9/11 jumper dubbed 'Falling Woman' leaped off from 101st floor

After the hijacked plane struck the north wing of New York’s Twin Towers, many victims like Karen Juday jumped out to avoid getting burned alive
Richard Pecorella holds up a picture of his fiance Karen Juday, who died during the September 11 attack on Ground Zero, on June 20, 2005 in New York City (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
Richard Pecorella holds up a picture of his fiance Karen Juday, who died during the September 11 attack on Ground Zero, on June 20, 2005 in New York City (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

Although there have been countless horrific pictures that came out of the deadly September 11 attacks, some continue to evoke immediate horror even after 20 years. As the US, along with the rest of the world, commemorates the 20th anniversary of the darkest day in the nation's history, let's look at one such photo — that of Karen Juday, the 9/11 victim who jumped off the World Trade Center Tower One, having run out of options. 

After a hijacked American Airlines Flight 11 struck the north wing of New York’s Twin Towers, in the first of the three coordinated terrorist attacks of the ill-fated day, many victims who couldn’t find any other escape route jumped out of the buildings to avoid getting burned alive. A photographer named Richard Drew who was at the scene, now called Ground Zero, after receiving a tip from a CNN cameraman, accidentally captured the images of the 9/11 jumpers. The photographer captured some of the most spine-chilling images in history including that of the ‘Falling Man’ and the ‘Falling Woman.’ The 'Falling Woman' was Karen Juday.


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Who was Karen Juday?

Juday was a 52-year-old administrative assistant at the Cantor Fitzgerald brokerage firm. She was a native of New Bremen in NYC. Her office was located on the 101st floor of the building. She had moved to Brooklyn to be with her boyfriend, Richard Pecorella. After 9/11, she was honored by the city, which named a small section of road at the corner of 64th Street and 20th Avenue in her Bensonhurst neighborhood in her honor.


She was the daughter of Willard and Orpha Hawley and was born in February 22, 1949. She attended Nappanee schools and eventually lived in Elkhart, where she landed a job working at Crown International, a company specializing in audio components. She was married to someone else before she met her boyfriend Pecorella. She was also a mother to a son and a daughter, according to the Goshen News.

After Juday and Pecorella started living together, they had made plans to marry in Las Vegas in the summer of 2002. The couple took the first leg of their daily commute to Brooklyn, where Pecorella worked. After that Juday would board the subway to Manhattan, where her office was located. Juday's name is emblazoned on the National September 11 Memorial.

Richard Drew's 'Falling Woman' photo

The AP photographer received rebuke for capturing the images of the victims moments before their painful death and critics labeled them as being “exploitative” in nature. As a result, he stashed them away till he was contacted by Pecorella, who was trying to find his missing fiancee.  The two of them sat down and started to comb through Drew's stash of images. Pecorella knew what his fiance was wearing on that day 

In a 2006 interview with NBC News, Pecorella said: “She was wearing a blue bandana as she did at work to hold her hair back, and it was her shape. She had on a blue sweater and cream-colored pants that day." The only remains of Juday found at Ground Zero was a piece of bone from her body. 

A man falls to his death from the World Trade Center after two planes hit the twin towers September 11, 2001 in New York City in an terrorist attack. (Photo by Jose Jimenez/Primera Hora/Getty Images)

Pecorella said she had not returned after 9/11 and was missing, and her body had also not been recovered. “I need to know how she died: Did she burn? Did she jump? Did she suffer?” Pecorella told the outlet. “I would have hoped she jumped, rather than burn." That was when he sought out Drew. "I actually sat with him on my laptop, and we looked at it, frame by frame, of the people falling from the building,” Drew said. “And he saw it. Yeah, he said, ‘Oh, that’s her.’ And that was it.”

It was reported that Pecorella suddenly died on February 10, 2016, at the age of 63. Before he die, he left a recording in remembrance of his fiancee. “Her eyes sparkled to me. It was magical. One day they were blue, the next they were green. Karen, I will always be in love with you and I will see you again. I will do enough good to make it up to you," the recording said.