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Revisiting history…

Revisiting history…

Call me ghoulish, or an amateur media historian, but I’m watching CNN Pipeline’s re-broadcast of their original real-time coverage of the 9/11 attacks five years ago. So I’m kinda retro-live-blogging it…

Prior to the attacks, CNN was broadcasting reports about some hurricane in Flordia and the effectiveness of evacuation procedures. But there was no “We interrupt this report …” – CNN keeps flickering to a video still, saying that some of the original footage has been lost – so by the time CNN know what’s happening, the first tower is already on fire with a CNN financial manager stating he saw a passenger jet hit the first tower.

And then, to my shame, I probably did what an awful lot of people did that day – get on with the rest of my duties while keeping the coverage on as “background” noise. At least, until the second plane hits the second tower.

What’s amazing throughout is the “lack of panic” from the newscasters – aside from a brief moment when the second plane hits. Plus the sense that at this point – with the two towers on fire – this is the worst it’s going to get. After all, what on earth could happen next?

45 mins into 9/11 – and the CNN window is still showing stock market reports prominently. Even when it obscures the footage of the second plane hitting. Plus we’re only just hearing about what President Dubya Bush is going to do – mostly give a statement from a school in Florida…

60 mins into 9/11 – it takes this long before CNN gets a live journalist/anchor on the scene from a rooftop looking out over Manhattan. (It seemed to take the news networks forever to report on the Columbia shuttle crash too… And the stock market reports have been taken off – then again, that’s because Wall Street has closed. Reports of a “significant fire” at the Pentagon too…

09:43 – the White House and Pentagon is evacuated, after further reports on the “fire” at the Pentagon with a CNN reporter on the scene. Now the voice reports all this starts cracking…

09:46 – reports of a fire at the Washington Mall.

09:50 – FAA suspends take-offs/landings across the entire United States.

09:53 – Reports that a plane hit the Pentagon, as Air Force One takes off from Sarasota, Florida.

09:55 – First mention of Osama bin Laden.

09:59 – While another correspondent is reporting on events in Washington, there’s a huge explosion and the second tower in New York disappears in a plume of smoke. “THe most frightening thing I have ever seen” says the CNN anchor, before re-listing everything that’s been evacuated.

10:02 – the Sears Tower in Chicago is evacuated. Has something happened there?

10:05 – reports of people jumping, and that the South Tower has collapsed.

10:12 – reports of an explosion on Capitol Hill.

10:17 – explosion reports on Capitol Hill denied by a CNN correspondent.

10:28 – just after the first video eyewitness report on the ground, the other tower collapses. “There are no words.”

And at this point, the 9/11 “narrative” ends. But CNN keeps reporting rumours of other bombs, a second hi-jacked plane circling Washington DC that has been deemed to be a threat with F-16 fighter jets scrambled, and utterly stunned commuters at JFK Airport stranded with nowhere to go.


  • I was in Nigeria when it happened. I’d just popped into the guesthouse to grab something and the TV had been left on Sky News, so I saw the first tower with smoke pouring out and “dreadful accident” being mooted as the reason.

    Then a second explosion. I remember uttering the words “secondary explosion” as, from the angle, that’s what it looked like. Then they showed it again as the reporter said something had hit the *other* tower.

    My knees literally went weak and I collapsed into the sofa.

  • I was on a workshop in Kings Cross at the time. Leaving at the end of the day, I went to a bar where they were dj'ing to projections of the towers falling in slow motion. William Gibson would have approved.

  • We were opening our new Edinburgh office that day so were busy setting up new PC's etc. I as actually on the phone to a client who was an american living in the Uk and she suddenly said "Oh my god, someone's just told me a plane has hit the WTC. I have to go and put the TV nws on!". I came off the phone and turned to tell my colleages just as one of them came off the phone and beat me to saying "Do we have a TV here?"

    We spent the rest of the day completely aghast in front of the TV and virtually no work was done. I think that matches up with most other offices in the world.

    My better half was actually working as a legal intern in New York at the time it happened (well before we met). Living just around the corner from the WTC. She has been quite upset at times this week as all the coverage has brought it all back.

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