What can you do in 22 Seconds? Photographer Under Fire for Snapping Infamous Photo Instead of Helping Victim

R Umar Abassi on Today

By Dawn Cranfield

What can you do in 22 Seconds?  Photographer Under Fire for Snapping Infamous Photo Instead of Helping Victim

Ki-Suk Han, 58, of Queens, was pushed to his death off of a subway platform in Manhattan.  Police have arrested Naeem Davis, 30, as a suspect in the homicide; he was seen arguing with the man only moments earlier.

While this macabre murder scene is not new, the way it has been captured is taking America by storm; R Umar Abassi, a freelance photographer took a picture of the man as he was trying to climb out of the path of the oncoming train.   The Post then ran the ghoulish headline “Pushed on the subway tracks – this man is about to die” with a picture of Han, the train in the background; seconds later he was killed.

Abassi was interviewed on Today by Matt Lauer and Savannah Guthrie where he explained how he managed to take the now infamous photograph.  He explained how he had seen a body flying off of the platform so he started to run towards him, after he heard a collective gasp from the crowd.  His first thought was to attempt to gain the attention of the conductor of the train; using the flash from his camera strapped to his wrist, he began snapping pictures as quickly as he could, directing them towards the train.

Abassi believes he was approximately 350 to 450 feet away and the whole event, from the time he saw Han on the tracks until the time he was

Matt Lauer

struck was about 20-22 seconds.

When pressed by Matt Lauer about how long 22 seconds is, the photographer responded calmly that he did not have a chance to reach the man in time; still, he felt others on the platform could have reacted and help him.  He goes on to claim he was not trying to get any pictures and only wanted to alert the conductor, “I didn’t care about the photographs. If you were to see the raw photographs, you would say, I cannot see anything in them.”  (today.msnbc.com)

At the end of the interview, Abassi was asked if he would react in the same way again; he said he would because he firmly believes he did not have enough time to save the victim.  He also believes some good has come out of the controversy sparked over the publicity surrounding this photograph; the need for further safety regarding the subway systems.

Still, when I first heard about this story yesterday, I must admit I was mortified by the fact that there was a photo immortalizing in perpetuity what must have been a very terrifying moment.  It reminded me of the first time I can recall seeing a dead body on the evening news; I felt the coverage to be salacious, disrespectful, and all at once, knew it would be ground-breaking.

As far as Matt Lauer’s pestering about how long 22 seconds really is; I don’t think it is very long.  This morning I spent some time thinking about it; in 22 seconds, I could not make a piece of toast, or brush my teeth, or check in online to a flight I am taking tomorrow, or even comb out my hair and put it into a braid.  So, I think it is a little harsh to criticize somebody for not rescuing another in 22 seconds; especially if you were not there.

Manhattan Subway Platform

*It should be noted Abassi has been paid for the use of the photograph.  In his words, he has been paid for the licensing of the photo, and how it was used was not determined by him.

**I will not show the photo here out of principal and respect for the family.


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