In an exclusive primetime interview, the freelance photographer for the N.Y. Post who snapped pictures showing a man facing death on the tracks of a New York City Subway defends himself and details the scene.
R. Umar Abbasi entered the subway platform as a train was approaching and saw Ki Suk Han on the tracks. In the moment, his instinct was to draw attention to the man on the tracks by using his flash to alert the conductor. Mr. Abbasi did not see what photos his camera was capturing at the time, the settings were not even set for use inside the subway. He says, "It wasn't important to get the photograph. The photograph came out as a result of my effort or what I could think at that moment to do. Even at this moment I think, you know, I wish I had the presence of mind to say 'Mr. Han run in the other direction!' I did hear people saying 'Get up, Get up,' but I don't know why anyone did not reach out."
Mr. Abbasi ran towards Mr. Han and was approached by the suspect who is accused of pushing him onto the tracks, "He seemed agitated and as he was approaching he was cursing, using profanities. And he went by me. And I saw him coming; I braced myself, and stood on the side." Mr. Abbasi feared that the suspect would also push him onto the tracks.
The photographer responds to his critics. "They were not there, I look at them as armchair critics, and when you're in a situation you realize what it is, and it was a very fluid situation. The photographs are still. You see the train and you see Mr. Han's at one spot but in reality the train is moving towards him. I do not know what speed it is, but it was really fast. The whole thing happened really, really fast." Mr. Abbasi describes what he saw as traumatic, "It’s like every time if I have to narrate the whole thing, it's reliving it." The photographer says he lives "with the image." He was not able to sleep that first night without hearing the sounds of what happened. "Mr. Han did not scream or anything; this is how fast it transpired."
R. Umar Abbasi says now that he has had time to reflect on the tragedy, he wishes that he could have known more about the platform's length and seen all of the details that are within his images, so he could have advised Mr. Han to run the other direction, “On it there were only about three cars into the station, and all he had to do was outrun three cars and he would have lived."
When Mr. Abassi looks at his photographs from that day, it is chilling to him. "It is like a man looking at his end. And the oncoming train, the metaphor for it, death staring him down."
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