According to the NYPD, the incident occurred at around 1:30 p.m. at the World Trade Center site in Lower Manhattan. A Port Authority police officer witnessed the man, identified as Jeffrey Hernandez, leap into one of the memorial’s two-tiered reflecting pools. The officer promptly climbed down to rescue him; however, Hernandez slid head-first and dropped 20 feet into the lower part of the pool’s basin, according to the New York Post.
The terrifying moment was captured on video and shared on social media, where it quickly went viral.
Hernandez sustained injuries to his left leg and back and was taken to Bellevue Hospital, where he was arrested amid his recovery. The Post reports that he appeared by video for arraignment in New York criminal court on but did not enter a plea.
The motivation behind Hernandez’s jump remains unclear, but his family shared insight into his mental health struggles that could explain his actions that day.
William Hernandez, Jeffrey’s eldest brother, told The Post that Jeffrey had a long history of mental illness, including schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, stating that “This was probably number 40 of his psychotic breakdowns.”
According to one of the officers at the scene, Jeffrey told him that “he did it for his father,” as if his father was somehow involved with the 9/11 terror attacks.
However, his family asserted that they do not have any connections to victims of the 9/11 attacks.
“It was probably the manifestation of a suicide fantasy. He doesn’t really want to die. But there’s just no stopping him when he’s having a psychotic break,” William explained.
The family further maintained that Jeffrey should have been receiving supervised, residential care for mentally ill individuals, but he has repeatedly been denied eligibility by various New York health agencies.
“My parents have been trying to get him in a home for mentally ill people for years but he keeps being deemed ineligible for some reason,” William said.
He also pointed to the financial and emotional burden placed on their elderly parents, who have been struggling to secure appropriate care for Jeffrey.
In response to the incident, the memorial’s reflecting pools had their water turned off temporarily and security measures have been heightened to prevent future incidents.
Designed to symbolize “absence made visible,” the memorial pools honor the 2,983 people who lost their lives in the 2001 terrorist attacks and the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center.
The names of the victims are inscribed on bronze parapets surrounding the pools, and each pool represents a different aspect of the tragedy.
Jeffrey’s next court hearing is scheduled for November 28, where he will face charges of criminal mischief for the damage caused during his jump, including damage to the memorial’s light fixtures.