9/11 As It Happened

(I’m opening this here, because it concerns the media coverage of the events of 9/11, as opposed to the events themselves).

Tuesday night, MSNBC ran a 2-hour program with the above title, which consisted of mostly unedited footage from NBC (mostly Katie Couric and Matt Lauer) from the morning of September 11, 2001. This covered the first moments after the first tower was hit, up through the crash of United 93 and the collapse of the towers.

I found this morbidly fascinating; since I live on the west coast, I didn’t turn on the TV that morning until well after all this had happened. So this was my first time seeing this “as it happened” footage. My impressions…

The anchors were amazingly calm and professional. I’d be yelling ‘holy crap!" and "what the f*** is goin’ on???" a lot – but then I’m not a professional news anchor.

The coverage was surprisingly limited – it was virtually all phone conversations with eyewitnesses on the street, while looking at a camera shot from a skyscraper miles away. It took a long time to get a cameraman on the street. Any ideas why?

It looks like the anchors don’t watch their own monitors…when the 2nd plane hit, you could see the plane approaching on the screen, and the eyewitness on the phone reacted immediately, but the anchors were a bit behind & confused.

Tom Brokaw arrived about 90 minutes in, and provided gravitas. Up to that point, all the talk was on minutiae. Brokaw immediately took the perspective of the nation under attack from terrorists.

[thread=86458]This thread[/thread] is a fascinating read for similar reasons.

I think one of the things that most impressed on me, in those moments, were the very professional news anchors, visibly struggling to hold their shit together. It is really hard to imagine what it must have been like to be a reporter that day.

I watched NBC live that morning, and I don’t think I want to see it again, ever. I too remember the professionalism and control of the staff, though. They acted like real pros.

A side note- we had just put a new TV in our bedroom, and our two year old son was able to watch Disney Channel with carefree abandon that morning, while we watched the horrible shit on the “big people’s” TV. I have never been so happy about what I thought was a frivolous decision to have more than one TV in that house at that time…

MSNBC ran three hours of actual morning footage of Tuesday morning 9/11/2001 from 9 to 12 on Tuesday 9/11/2007. Since our TVS were out that day, it was the first time I had seen the whole coverage in its entirety. Very scary and fascincating…

Watched it. I was impressed by the anchors’ ability to filter so much of the misinformation and speculation going on at the time of their broadcast.

It is! I read through the whole thing maybe a year or so ago.

I can’t remember who said it, or the exact phrase, but someone said something like “How dare you imply that this administration will twist this tragedy for political purposes?”

I remember noting with my friends how all the camera on the streets were pointed up and none of them that we saw showed the streets or even the ground level at all. We thought maybe it was because there was gore and wreckage in the streets, but looking back I don’t think there really would have been. Did anybody else remark on it?

Both my wife and I were up unusually early that morning. My wife called me in from the other room after the first plane hit. We were watching KTLA’s morning news, and they were reporting that some kind of prop plane had hit the WTC.

As someone else commented earlier, it seemed pretty clear that the news anchors weren’t watching their monitors. We watched the second plane hit live, and although the anchors hadn’t a clue what was going on, my wife and I are sitting there going, “Oh shit! That is no f’in way that’s a coincidence!” I can’t really remember the reaction of the anchors after they realized what was going on because I was too busy trying to process my own reaction. I think KTLA just switched over to CNN’s coverage eventually.

After the towers fell – well, of course cameras would no longer be pointing up – there was an image of a dusty businessman with a briefcase. He looked like he was on his way to a board meeting. Then he bent over and blew out a huge wad of mucus. Then he continued on his way.

They played that over and over again.

I saw this as it happened, and didn’t want to watch it again. As I sighed complainingly, tched and rolled my eyes, my wife said “It happened, we just can’t ignore the anniversary”

That got me to thinking. I guess it’s not the remembrance itself that bothers me, it’s the almost beatification of the day that has happened. Personal remembrances are all well and good, but the televised reading of the names, the “Let’s Roll” utterances I heard that day, the re-running of the live footage all seemed to me to be in poor taste.

This is a thing that happened, it was tragic, and affects us to this day. But the people who lost loved ones should be allowed to remember and grieve on their own. Does that mean we still have to hear “God Bless America” at the seventh inning of every baseball game? When do we as a country get to move on? When do we get to stop the naval gazing?

I don’t think I’m expressing myself very well here, and I’m probably in the wrong thread for this, but I’m so tired of the fear and the changes that we as a country have made, and the changes we as a people have made.

My theory is that the majority of the citizens of this country experienced something their minds could not even begin to comprehend. I was 18 at the time, had never paid even the slightest iota of attention of world politics and had no idea where or what the Trade Center was. To see the intimate details of such a horror (video footage, desperate and pleading 911 calls, etc) really made me contemplate the cold and terrifying realities of war, and what it must be like for people to cope with that on a daily basis.

If there is anyone out there anything like me, I think it explains the navel gazing. I don’t swallow the schmaltzy patriotism stuff, but it’s always going to be a personal thing, in the sense that I had to confront myself, my own fears and the very adult reality that terrifying and horrible things do happen to innocent people. I think every child reaches the day where they come to terms with the fact that they can’t control their fate and their death is inevitable and their claim on safety and comfort is tenuous at best. That was my day.

I’m not saying that is anything like actually having been there, or having lost loved ones, but I am not going to lie and say I did not feel afraid and vulnerable that day, in a way that will probably stay with me for the rest of my life. If others feel that way too, I don’t see what’s wrong in talking about it.

I was working for the Web site of the Memphis paper that morning. When it started, we were all in shock, had the TV tuned to CNN like everyone else. We all just sat there in slack-jawed incomprehension at first. Then my boss, a consummate professional newsman, jumped into action. “You: cover the towers! You: cover the Pentagon! You: find out about that missing plane! You: try to find out who’s behind this! I’m going to keep everything organized on the home page.”

He really galvanized us, and we jumped to work, putting together the most useful package we could pull off the wires. With a lot of the big news sites (cnn.com, nytimes.com) overloaded and unresponsive, our site-visits jumped dramatically up that day, and stayed up afterward. We got a lot of praise for our organized and thorough coverage, attributable entirely to my (since-deceased) boss.

That was really the day that Internet journalism came into its own, especially as a lot of people were at work and had no access to TV news.

Note: I’m not trying to suggest that my experience was remotely comparable to covering the events live in New York or D.C., or even as a live TV anchor, and I’m thankful I didn’t have to. It was hard enough sitting in my safe little office in Memphis, trying to quell the fear and panic long enough to get the job done.

Do you have any archives of your pages that you could share? I’d like to see how you did.

I don’t know of any archives of the pages from that day. Here’s one from a week later, anyway, to give an idea of how the page was organized back then (some images, like the header, aren’t displayed): GoMemphis

I did save a CNN screencap from the day: Link

Also reported on NBC. That must’ve been just a wild-assed assumption, since no commercial plane could possibly have accidentally hit a tower. Anybody who actually saw the plane hit knew it wasn’t a prop plane.

NBC also said at one point (although they never repeated it) that there were “6 known dead”. I’d be very curious to know where that came from.

I think we as a country can (and should) do both. We should move on. But we should pause to examine our navals on occasion. The vigilance of people is directly proportional to their memories.

I remember being told that an airplane had flown into one of the towers of the World Trade Center and assuming that it was a Piper Cub or something small, because it was OBVIOUS to me that there was no way an actual jet airliner could accidentally crash into a skyscraper.

When the second plane hit, they brought a portable TV into the office for the news and nothing got done the rest of the day except nervous smoking and coffee-drinking. Everyone kind of kept glancing toward the fuel depot across the street (which was just a bit silly and grandiose, since not even terrorists with an unknown goal would care about a small fuel depot in a small city with no modern strategic value). But a lot of what we thought and did that day was silly…if only because we were frightened.


Care to elaborate?