The story of a 'Jumper'


Karen Juday RIP


Richard Percorella had searched high and low for a trace of his beloved, Karen Juday, but it was not until Christmas Eve, 2001, that her jawbone was found. He had the remains cremated, and scattered them off the Verrazano- Narrows Bridge, which connects Staten Island to Brooklyn - the first place in the city Karen had seen when they started their lives together. Karen was a farm girl from Indiana, said Richard. And she had courage. Richard believed she had jumped.


After the jawbone came another fragment, then another, and so


Richard signed a waiver allowing the medical examiner's office to dispose of any further remains. He couldn't go on forever handling the pieces of her.


When they met in 1997, Karen and Richard had both been married before. Richard said he knew she was "the one". He worked at the trading house Bear Steams, whose office on the Brooklyn side of the East River had a clear view of the Twin Towers. He helped Karen to get a job as an administrator at Cantor Fitzgerald. Sometimes she would call him to describe an amazing spectacle outside her window. "You can't believe this, but a jet plane just flew by my window. It was so beautiful."


On the morning of 9/11 Richard had a bird's-eye view of the whole thing. He saw the second plane hit the south tower and tried to call Karen, but there was no answer. Soon, his building was on a lock down. Frustrated, desperate and enraged, Richard picked up a chair and threw it at the window. The nurse was called. She wanted to take his blood pressure. "1 says, 'Are you f***in' kiddin' me?' 1 said, 'My fiancee probably just got killed and you wanna take my blood pressure? Of course it'll be up!''' That was the Brooklyn in him coming out, he told me.


Richard used to look at the postings and the photographs on the internet and sometimes wondered if she had jumped. She was very vain and particular about her face, he knew; she used plenty of wrinkle cream, and he always figured if conditions were that bad she would jump rather than face the fires.


He eventually made contact with Richard Drew, the Associated Press (AP) photographer who recorded many images of those who jumped or fell on 9/11- so many he has never counted them, he told me - including one much-published image of a man frozen in a head-first dive that came to be known as the Falling Man.


Pecorella went to Drew's office and was shown a collection of photographs. ''Are you sure you want to do this? It's very graphic," Drew asked him, but he was sure - and there she was, in the first photograph he saw. She was wearing the familiar bandana she always put on at work and stood in the window frame, holding on, with the flames behind her. There were a lot of other people in the photograph, but Richard was sure he recognized her cream trousers and blue cotton top.


There was a second photograph of a woman falling, hands over her face, legs raised as she came down, no bandana now, but the hair and body shape all too familiar. Drew was almost apologetic to Richard - his instincts had just taken over, he said, he had just recorded what was happening. Richard reassured him that, in fact, it gave him some closure to know that, at the end, Karen had made a choice. She had jumped; she did not, as he said, burn up and become toast. "She chose how she should die. It's not a religious thing with me. A lot of people have problems because they consider it as suicide, which means you go to hell, but I don't consider it like that, I think it's more complicated.


Richard had never met anyone else who believed they knew a victim who had jumped. "Nobody talks about the jumpers," he said. It made him feel like he was the only one who knew and had something to hold on to. In fact, as Richard later realized, there were others who were looking to claim ownership of the same images. When his own health deteriorated after 2001- he developed a condition similar to emphysema that has restricted his mobility