To find this photo, I typed ‘viral photos’ into the Google Image search bar. After a little bit of scrolling, I immediately felt connected to this image. A man standing on what appears to be a balcony of the World Trade Center seconds before one of the planes hit the tower. I have seen this photo before and was shocked by it, but I realized that I never took into consideration whether it was actually real or not.
The first thing I decided to do was to try to go upstream by performing a reverse Google Image search on the photo. The result was many other 9/11 pictures and some news articles that contained the picture. Many of the headlines deemed that the picture was fake but none seemed to be credible or from the original source. Despite this, I clicked on one link from the search to see if the author provided any explanation as to why they believed the photo was fake. In this article, called “Viral Photos that Turned Out Fake,” the author claims that the man in the photo was eventually identified and he admitted the original photo was taken in 1997 and was manipulated after the 9/11 attacks. The article provided no sources to that information but at least that gave me somewhere to start.
For some more information, I typed “Tourist WTC picture 9/11” into Wikipedia and was led to this entry on the site. Wikipedia immediately states that the photo was a hoax. It links to this article, from the Museum of Hoaxes, as proof. This article provides many logical reasons that this photo is fake. There are some reasons that are more obvious, such as the fact that this man was pictured wearing winter clothing when it was sixty degrees and sunny on the day of the attack. Others are less obvious to the ordinary internet browser, like the fact that the planes that crashed into the WTC were both 767s and the plane in this mans picture is a 757. More notably though, this Museum of Hoaxes article links us to the original source of the picture. The article claims that the man in the picture is named Peter Guzli and he was a Hungarian tourist. The article then links us to a Wired News article which was the first American news outlet to talk with Guzli and officially break that this picture was a hoax.
The Wired News article, written by Jeffrey Benner in November of 2001, provides a full explanation of the source of the photo. Peter, who at the time did not want his last name shared, stated in an email to Wired News that “This was a joke meant for my friends, not such a wide audience.” He goes on to state that he visited the WTC in November of 1997 to see relatives. A few weeks after the attack, he decided to PhotoShop a plane into his photograph and send the picture through email to a couple friends. Before he knew it, the photo had gone ‘viral’ so he hid in anonymity. However, when other imposters started claiming they were the man in the photo, Peter’s friends outed him to a Hungarian news station. From there, Wired News got ahold of the story and brought it to the United States. To further the proof, Peter provided several pictures of himself taken on the same day.
So, in conclusion, it is confirmed that this viral photo is a hoax. Although this is pretty common knowledge nowadays, I still believe it is important to go upstream and research sources in order to find the truth behind an image. Anyone can say that an image is real or fake, but only those with real evidence can confirm or deny it.