Internet Archive shows Sept. 11 TV coverage


“We just saw another plane coming in to the other side,” Gibson said. “This looks like there is some sort of concerted effort to attack the World Trade Center that is underway.”

Later, when the towers collapsed, one after the other, it seemed so inconceivable that anchors initially couldn’t grasp what viewers had seen on the screen. NBC’s Tom Brokaw talked of structural damage so severe that the buildings would probably have to be brought down—after one of them already came down on its own.

“The whole side has collapsed,” ABC’s Peter Jennings said when the first tower came down.

“The whole building has collapsed,” ABC’s reporter on the scene, Don Dahler, corrected him.

“The whole building has collapsed?” Jennings responded.

CNN’s Aaron Brown responded with the horror most viewers no doubt felt when the second tower fell. “Good lord,” he said. “There are no words.”

“The landscape of New York has just been changed, and you have to presume that thousands of lives have been extinguished,” Jennings said.

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In those early hours, ABC’s John Miller and NBC’s Andrea Mitchell had raised the name of Osama bin Laden as possibly the man behind the attacks, even as the networks reported the false claim of a Palestinian organization taking credit.

Also interesting are the perspectives from overseas. The BBC in London, for example, showed video of people jumping or falling from the towers—images that American networks stayed away from. In Moscow, a newscaster who broke into a program to report on the towers collapsing displayed a voice halting with emotion.

The site is easy to navigate, with timelines that direct users to specific events of the morning, such as when the second plane hit the trade center and when each tower collapsed. It can be frustrating to use, however, as the video is displayed in 30- or 40-second blocks instead of continuous streams. And there are occasional gaps; large portions of CBS’ coverage are missing, for example.

Kahle said he believed it was important to provide this resource. There are surprisingly few ways for people to go back and see television news reports, at least compared to print, he noted.

“It is so important, yet it has been, up until now, quite ephemeral,” he said.

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