The morning of September 11, 2001 started like any other for most people -- not least of all the morning anchors and producers expecting to report on kids going back-to-school, fall fashions and other stories typical of a Tuesday in September.
But the morning turned out very differently. All the major networks were live with footage of the World Trade Center by 8:52 a.m., minutes after the first plane hit the North Tower. Matt Lauer cut an interview short to deliver the news with Katie Couric on "Today," while Charlie Gibson and Diane Sawyer broke the news on "Good Morning America."
News about the terrorist attacks was still unconfirmed at that point, with anchors reporting that a plane had crashed into the building but unsure of the size, and eyewitnesses speculating that it could have been a bomb.
When the second plane hit the South Tower, it became instantly clear that something deliberate was going on. It also became one of the most harrowing and tragically iconic moments in television history — a visual that is still seared into the collective consciousness ten years later. To watch the footage now is to experience something akin to the feeling of seeing a horror movie. We see the anchors fumbling to explain what is going on, even as we know all too well the terror and trauma they are about to experience. Then that plane hits, and we see these usually composed people suddenly lose it, if only for a moment. What's remarkable is how much they all maintain their focus, even as the world literally changes before their eyes.
Below, see how television covered the attacks as they were happening.
TV networks broke news of 9/11 attacks
The First Tower Is Struck
At 8:46 a.m., American Airlines Flight 11 from Boston crashed into the North Tower of the World Trade Center. In this video of the first attack, a bystander records firemen working in the street, when suddenly everyone turns to look up. Seconds later, against a clear blue sky, the first plane hits the North Tower. There is no sound in the video, but the people in the street appear confused as they witness the explosion.
The South Tower Collapses
In this frightening raw video, fireman and bystanders run as the South Tower collapses. Smoke and debris billow from the falling tower, which was hit by Flight 175 shortly after 9 a.m. on Sept. 11. Amid gushing smoke, the camera pans to the location where the plane hit, reportedly between the 77th and 85th floors.
People Wave for Help
While most people below the crash zones of the towers lived, all but four people at or above the impact zones died. In this tragic video, people hang out of the windows in the north tower impact zone calling for help. The North Tower was struck between the 93rd and 98th floors at approximately 8:46 a.m. The building, 1 World Trade Center, was among the tallest in the world when it was built.
The View from a Balcony
In this personal video, a resident who lived near the towers set up a camera on his balcony to record the aftermath when the first tower was hit. But the video captured much more. According to an account on the YouTube page, when the cameraman unknowingly walked away, the second plane hit the South Tower. Hundreds of thousands of people were eventually evacuated from Lower Manhattan, including residents of the area and trapped commuters.
The Attacks from New Jersey
The destruction of the World Trade Center was visible from afar. This series of videos taken from Jersey City shows the extent of the damage of the towers—first after the initial plane crashed, followed by the second plane, and the eventual collapse of the buildings. Smoke rushes into the sky beyond the southern tip of Manhattan as the man recording the video yells in the background.
Bystanders Run from Smoke
This couple captured video of the towers from the top of their apartment, mere blocks from the World Trade Center. The footage itself is harrowing enough, but their conversation is chilling. Though not visible in the video, the couple discusses seeing people jumping and debris falling from the towers before the smoke nearly reaches them. Warning: Strong language is used.
Chaos on the Ground
Bystanders ventured close to Ground Zero to witness the damage, but began running when conditions worsened. In this amateur video, people watch smoke encase the South Tower as the second plane hits. Shortly after the explosion, the person recording the scene begins to run as chaos ensues and sirens sound in the background.
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