What if you could watch every channel on 9/11?
August 24, 2011 12:28 PM   Subscribe

See history roll over the world. Today, the Internet Archive has released to the world an archive of all news programs on nearly every major television channel from 9/11/2001 to 9/16/2001. This exhibit, called Understanding 9/11: A Television News Archive provides a grid navigation system of these many hours of footage from dozens of worldwide news programs and gives us a comprehensive overview of television's reaction to 9/11, on 9/11.
posted by jscott (59 comments total) 60 users marked this as a favorite
Wow. What an incredible project and resource.
posted by ericb at 12:32 PM on August 24, 2011 [3 favorites]

I should be marveling at this; I should be amazed and overwhelmed. As it happens, I am.

But I also had the immediate realization that even now, in the Internet instant-gratification immediate-access world we live in, we still cannot make a record of our history without it being shaped by the points of view of those in the position to do the recording. This tremendous achievement of documentation is still inherently spun and, thus, flawed.

Mind you, as a history of how we spin things in real-time even without intention, this is also a colossal achievement...but over time, that context will be lost, replaced by a comparison between the real-time records and what we wrote down and established as the "true" history over the long term. Arguably, this has already happened.
posted by davejay at 12:40 PM on August 24, 2011 [1 favorite]

This gave me a great idea for a joke, but I am not posting it here.
posted by Ardiril at 12:41 PM on August 24, 2011 [1 favorite]

On the one hand, I respect the intent behind this, and respect the effort put into this.

But on the other, I will not be dipping in -- I was an eyewitness to the actual event, and that's tended to keep me from wanting to see even the most just-the-facts video or news coverage of the period.

But I also know that's just me. For many, the TV image was "their" 9/11 -- in fact, for almost everyone not in New York City proper that was the case. I've found the only way to really cope with that dichotomy is to sort of avoid the coverage every year, and turn a little bit hermit-like on the day proper. I may have to start early this year, it seems, though.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:44 PM on August 24, 2011 [9 favorites]

in the Internet instant-gratification immediate-access world we live in, we still cannot make a record of our history without it being shaped by the points of view of those in the position to do the recording.

Enter the YouTube.
posted by secondhand pho at 12:45 PM on August 24, 2011 [1 favorite]

This pretty much sums up America for the past decade.
posted by hanoixan at 12:47 PM on August 24, 2011 [14 favorites]

For those who want to dig through the raw video footage from the day, Television Archive has a collection of all the major networks.
posted by Askiba at 12:51 PM on August 24, 2011

Hard to watch but - wow - what a resource. Many years ago, I read through the 'today show' and 'gma' transcripts from 9/11 on lexis. Even that was wrenching.
posted by jmccw at 12:52 PM on August 24, 2011

This pretty much sums up America for the past decade.

I shouldn't be cracking up at this. No really, I shouldn't...

And by the way, is there room on the archive for me to post the video I shot of my roommate and I on the evening of September 11th? I have a couple hours of footage of us watching TV news, eating burritos, smoking weed, and discussing how this attack would bring about a new age of aviation. Oh and also how things were going to get really bad for a long time. Not that we knew how long. But I think everyone in NYC knew the shit was going to hit the fan, and it wasn't going to be pretty.
posted by ReeMonster at 12:52 PM on August 24, 2011

I know we throw out "too soon" a lot here, often in a joking manner, but for me even ten years on is too soon. It may always be so. I'm glad someone has done this because I know lots of people are interested but I won't be partaking.
posted by tommasz at 12:52 PM on August 24, 2011

You know, it was a couple years ago that I realized I could hear a plane going overhead without my heart beating harder.

I'm not sure I'm ready to look at this, but I'm glad it's out there.
posted by lumpenprole at 12:53 PM on August 24, 2011 [1 favorite]

Uh dude, dont you work for the Internet Archive?
posted by wheelieman at 12:53 PM on August 24, 2011 [2 favorites]

I get health insurance and a stipend from the Internet Archive but I didn't have one iota of influence, work, or contribution to this project. I am at a NYU conference that is discussing this archive and I asked for permission to post it on Metafilter (because I LOVE YOU GUYS) without knowing it was already well past smoldering on the link blogs. If this still makes it a self link then mea culpable, wanted you guys to know about this amazing thing.
posted by jscott at 12:56 PM on August 24, 2011 [3 favorites]

Thanks for this. I was shocked how choked up I got just looking at the stills almost 10 years later.
posted by Gankmore at 12:57 PM on August 24, 2011

...avoid the coverage every year, and turn a little bit hermit-like on the day proper.

I spent that whole day sneaking peeks at a fire across the island, listening to classmates with radios interrupting class to give updates, wondering what the hell was going on, if my mom, who worked in Harlem, was okay (she was). When I managed to get home from high school that day -- even getting out of Downtown Brooklyn by public transportation was a pain in the ass and took hours -- I found out that every single channel was just absolutely overtaken by 9/11 footage. I could see the plume of smoke over my house and smell the burn paper in the air and I was in Bensonhurst.

MTV was the only channel that was even remotely watchable, at least they aired a few music videos between the constantly-cycling footage of the plane hitting and the smoke coming down the streets. That was when I decided to avoid all of it, like the plague, from then on.

A year later, I was sitting in college, in Downtown Brooklyn, walking distance from my high school. I heard the names being read off and I'm pretty sure I left the room. I've been steadfastly avoiding anything to do with 9/11 ever since. So, yeah, awesome project, but I won't be checking it out.
posted by griphus at 12:58 PM on August 24, 2011

Thanks for posting this, jscott. Breaking news archives fascinate me, even when they're disturbing, so I'm sure I will be browsing through this.
posted by bondcliff at 12:59 PM on August 24, 2011

I've repeatedly said I was the on 9/11. Each year, I try to watch the MSNBC rebroadcast of the 9/11 NBC Today Show -- really sums up for me how life changed in an instant.
posted by AJaffe at 1:01 PM on August 24, 2011

All of a sudden I'm a terrified 13-year-old again.
posted by ChuraChura at 1:02 PM on August 24, 2011 [3 favorites]

I remember that Internet Archive had something like this up in the period after 9/11, then it disappeared for a while, glad to see it back up
posted by banal evil at 1:03 PM on August 24, 2011

...I lived about 25 to 30 blocks away from the towers. I heard the impact of both planes as they hit. It is a sound I will absolutely never forget.

I didn't have cable then, and was still relying on analog TV with an antenna. All the channels switched over to "All breaking news all the time" at the moment it started, but then there was a moment at about 10 or 10:30 when two of the channels suddenly blinked over to static. It took me several minutes to realize that those were the channels that had had their transmitter on top of the Towers.

I both do and don't want to see if anyone caught that sort of moment.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:05 PM on August 24, 2011 [5 favorites]

A few years ago I bought a collection of DVD-R's online of footage directly off the networks that day.
I guess day off people were recording the morning shows anyway and just let their VCRs record and record.
So its about 12 DVDs of just the day as it happened.

I havent really watched them but I bought them because it seemed like an important thing to have.
posted by Senor Cardgage at 1:06 PM on August 24, 2011 [3 favorites]

Just getting ready for the nine-one-one-palooza.

In a way, I've been dreading 9/11/11 since about 9/12/01.
posted by mmrtnt at 1:07 PM on August 24, 2011 [5 favorites]

Side-note: me and my ladyfriend are seeing Hall and Oates on 9/11 this year.
Something about that seems odd to me, but this is our one opportunity to see them and we've been wanting to for years. Not sure if they will work the show a bit differently or not mention it or what.
posted by Senor Cardgage at 1:08 PM on August 24, 2011

It's interesting to look back at some of the more reflective comments on the famous Metafilter thread (keeping in mind that almost no comments from back then have any favorites, since they didn't exist yet):
my greatest fear is how our government is going to respond. more erosion of freedom in the name of security. mark my words.
posted by rebeccablood at 1:10 PM on September 11, 2001 [189 favorites +] [!]

I am afraid of how many more lives may be lost in the US's quest for vengeance.
posted by phichens at 2:03 PM on September 11, 2001 [3 favorites −] [!]

This is going to be a big turning point in the history and character of this country, I think.
posted by Doug at 9:51 AM on September 11, 2001 [107 favorites −] [!]
posted by John Cohen at 1:10 PM on August 24, 2011 [2 favorites]

To quote a band that I hate more than paper cuts, "Wake me up when September ends."
posted by secondhand pho at 1:10 PM on August 24, 2011

I'm glad this resource exists, but I won't be watching it -- I didn't even want to watch it when it happened, but I was still trying to figure out an explanation for why and how it happened. In the end, that curiosity lasted only for about 24 hours, and I joined Netflix on 9/12/01.
posted by parilous at 1:10 PM on August 24, 2011

Another great resource is the Newseum's 9/12 Front Pages from around the world.

For this in D.C. there will be a free evening program at the Newseum -- 9/11: Ten Years Later.

USA Today is requesting personal stories and video for their 9/11 How It Changed Our World coverage.
posted by ericb at 1:12 PM on August 24, 2011 [1 favorite]

*For those in DC*
posted by ericb at 1:16 PM on August 24, 2011

If this still makes it a self link then mea culpable, wanted you guys to know about this amazing thing.

It's one of those too-close-for-comfort things, basically. We can leave the post up because I believe you that this project isn't your baby or whatever, but in the future this really needs to be not-with-a-ten-foot-pole stuff so that folks don't understandably have a "uh, aren't you involved?" reaction. Awesome thing making the rounds will very likely get posted by someone without even an eyebrow-raising tenuous connection, which is much preferable and doesn't put us in a weird damned-if-we-do-damned-if-we-don't position.
posted by cortex at 1:19 PM on August 24, 2011

So noted.
posted by jscott at 1:20 PM on August 24, 2011

posted by jessamyn at 1:25 PM on August 24, 2011

So now what I want is a room I can lock myself in, with a monitor for each channel, playing the synchronized feeds in a continuous loop.

That way I'll never forget.
posted by slickvaguely at 1:29 PM on August 24, 2011

I wasn't directly affected in any way, and I was in Montana when it happened, but it's weird how the irrational fears stick with you. So much that I am cutting our vacation one day short so as not to fly on 9/11.
posted by desjardins at 1:31 PM on August 24, 2011

Oh man, 9/11 !

I forgot about that.
posted by Bonzai at 1:33 PM on August 24, 2011 [8 favorites]

I still can't think about 9/11 without wishing I'd punched a Los Angeles-based co-worker in the face, the one who (a few days after 9/11) said that he didn't understand what the big deal was, since it happened so far away.
posted by davejay at 1:42 PM on August 24, 2011 [1 favorite]

of course, I feel that way about anyone who says bad things aren't bad because they happen far away, no matter where bad things happen, but this was particularly egregious because the guy involved was already a known quantity of douchebag
posted by davejay at 1:43 PM on August 24, 2011

FDNY Radio Dispatches from 9/11/01
posted by rollbiz at 1:48 PM on August 24, 2011

I was on the big network matrix, trying to find the first network to jump from ghastly images and talking heads back to, like, Spongebob. The best I can do is this, aired just after midnight ET on Mexican TV on September 12, 2001.
posted by tapesonthefloor at 2:08 PM on August 24, 2011 [1 favorite]

But I also had the immediate realization that even now, in the Internet instant-gratification immediate-access world we live in, we still cannot make a record of our history without it being shaped by the points of view of those in the position to do the recording. This tremendous achievement of documentation is still inherently spun and, thus, flawed.

Well, pretty much any primary source that's been written/produced by a human has this issue. Part of a historian's job is to analyze these kinds of sources for their biases and their context. Even more "democratic" primary source archives (like the Library of Congress archiving all of Twitter) come up against this, since they rely on people with the means to record their thoughts in some way. It's a function of privilege to have the time and means to tweet or keep a journal.

As for the context being lost, maybe. But history isn't a field that rests easy on "one" interpretation of a historical event or era. Different interpretations will come into and out of favor as new generations of historians reevaluate the same sources, or find new ones.

As for this achievement being "flawed," of course it is! There is no perfect primary source, because there is no unflawed, objective point of view. For those of us who lived through it and watched some of this footage live, it's an exercise in remembrance, and one that brings up all of our own feelings about 9/11 and the subsequent spin and use of the tragedy. For future generations and historians, an archive like this is an incredible gift that will greatly enrich scholarship and understanding of 9/11.
posted by yasaman at 2:08 PM on August 24, 2011 [1 favorite]

(Oh, thank god that link isn't gravy...)
posted by tapesonthefloor at 2:09 PM on August 24, 2011

I can't get any of the video to play on any browser. I keep getting a "you need javascript enabled" on FF, chrome and even IE.
posted by bz at 2:29 PM on August 24, 2011

I appreciate from a historical perspective that this exists, but I don't ever need to see another 9/11 image again. Not to be all, "I don't even have a tv" but this was the beginning of the end of televised news for me. I can live with being a little less informed if I can also be less consumed by media sensationalism and fear mongering.

Christ, ten years already?
posted by Space Kitty at 2:49 PM on August 24, 2011 [1 favorite]

9/11 celebrations come earlier every year, like Christmas.

And my brother and sister-in-law's anniversary. They got married on September 11 a year or two earlier.
posted by kirkaracha at 2:55 PM on August 24, 2011

Dear god! This might be my chance to find my a news gaffe that I've wanted to see for about 10 years.

I remember the talking heads were yapping on and on about nothing (might've been MSNBC) a few days after 9/11. They were just idly filling airspace with dangerous speculation when one of the newscasters started to outline a building with one of those video pens that John Madden uses to draw on the screen. The other newscaster then flips out at the sight of the white line rising up the screen, yelling, "WAIT A MINUTE, WAIT A MINUTE, IT LOOKS LIKE SOMEONE IS SHOOTING A FLARE FROM GROUND ZERO. YES A FLARE IS COMING FROM THE GROUND!" Seconds later they realized they had mistaken their co-workers drawing for a flare and probably felt like a fool.

Insignificant, yes, but an uplifting moment in an otherwise dark time. Anyone familiar with that incident?
posted by cloeburner at 3:04 PM on August 24, 2011 [2 favorites]

I've lived 3 blocks from the WTC since 1989. I was home that morning and as I type this the window to my left lets me see the new buildings that are rising on the site. Gentrification aside, Lower Manhattan is the best it's ever been with many new projects -- the Fulton Street Transit Center, The Frank Gehry tower, the East River Esplanade to name just three-- well on their way to completion.

It is very difficult for me to look at these images, but I certainly do respect their being put up on the net this way. For all the bullshit that happened as a result of 9/11 please realize that the wonderful spirit that built the first set of towers is thriving down here. Arguably, more so than ever. So if you feel the need to post funny / sarcastic MetaFilter-esque comments, that's cool, I suppose (I do normally enjoy them quite a bit). But rather than invading other countries or "going shopping' -- both less than genius calls, W -- many of us here on the ground have been working since 9/11 to make NYC an even better place. That might be worth commenting on too.
posted by Dean358 at 3:36 PM on August 24, 2011 [4 favorites]

There's a store near my old house that sells nothing but 9/11 memorabilia.

I find this tasteless.

I also find it pointless. Surely, if you need to grieve for someone or something you lost in the attack, you would be better served with a symbol that's specific to what you lost. The towers themselves were just tall concrete structures; it was a tragedy because there were people in them, and whole families and businesses relying on those people, and so forth.

Stocking up on memorabilia for the towers and the media fallout might help you when you need a good cry, I guess?

Anyway, this archive does have some interesting research potential, so if a lot of people are going to use it for catastrophe porn I'm not going to blame the curators.

Still, whenever I see something like this I tend to think of it primarily as a collectible for people like Senor Cardgage. It's unfortunate.
posted by LogicalDash at 7:29 PM on August 24, 2011

It'd be interesting to me if more footage of television channel programming right before the attacks was compiled (maybe a 9/10/11 archives project). Sort of a if-they-only-knew-what-they-are-in-for cultural theme. Does anyone know if this sort of thing exists?
posted by stroke_count at 7:36 PM on August 24, 2011 [1 favorite]

The start of the since ubiquitous CNN bottom screen breaking news crawl, starting at 11:10am Eastern.

I've always had a theory that the 24/7 crawl thing started on that day.
posted by sleslie at 8:41 PM on August 24, 2011 [3 favorites]

I find this fascinating. For me, 9/11 was the first time in my life that I remember when the reality of everyday life and the fantasy world of the television screen first converged. I was 12 at the time, and before that, events and people on television seemed to exist in a remote world beyond my concern, or merely as entertainment. Many people go on regarding television with this kind of indifference, whether it's a foreign war or a natural disaster, etc, because those things are so far away, they don't seem real. The whole moral dilemma of "regarding the pain of others", as Susan Sontag puts it.

On 9/11, I remember sitting in my dad's bedroom in northern NJ watching it on TV, then gazing out the window and seeing the exact same image in the skyline over my neighborhood. And then it struck me, 'this is real. The things shown on television, they're real too.'

I feel like I can't regard any kind of human suffering on television now without recalling that moment, so I think it's important to document the impact that television has on the way we remember and experience moments of mass tragedy such as this one.
posted by adso at 8:57 PM on August 24, 2011 [2 favorites]

Just looking at the stills is like a punch in the gut. I'm another one to say that I'm glad the archive is there, but after the one look there's no way I can look at any more of it.
posted by deborah at 9:00 PM on August 24, 2011

I miss Peter Jennings.
posted by Sreiny at 9:50 PM on August 24, 2011 [4 favorites]

<500 comments? Christ mefi was a lot smaller then, eh? I thought I was on it then, but I guess I only joined in 2005, so I don't know if I was reading or not... Thought I was... I do remember that day though.

I dread the bullshit patriotic "woe is us" that's going to happen this year. I feel sorry for everyone who actually lost someone in the tragedy... But this is just gonna be some propaganda used to sell us more false unity, more war and more self-victimization.

David Cross on the whole thing way back when.

I was at a Town Hall at a place we contract with that day, with my boss. I remember hearing it by some town worker (cop?) that came in. I didn't realize it was a commercial airliner, I thought it was just some small plane. Then when I saw it on TV during lunch it hit me. Then the "Reichstag" came to mind (this was before I ever heard of Alex Jones -- also, you'll note that I don't believe that shit and I despise Alex Jones, just to clarify lest you think I'm some truther)... When I saw the PATRIOT ACT rolled out I just knew that was gonna happen. God bless Russ Feingold.

So here we are 10 years later, hundreds times more killed in the name of vengeance and security than ever of "us" were killed by "them"... How many soldiers scarred, killed. How many civilian families torn apart, killed. How many innocent kids snatched from their parents and locked up in some god forsaken hole. How many of them had unspeakable things perpetrated on them in the name of "Liberty".

I think this is a cool concept a giant wall of coverage, but Jesus. More people died from the Tsunami in 2005. Are we gonna have some giant memorial of coverage for that in 4 years? I bet not.

I am not looking to a month from now. Hell I forgot all about it coming up. But, now I see it's gonna happen and we'll be inundated with it all. *sigh*
posted by symbioid at 10:04 PM on August 24, 2011 [1 favorite]

This is actually a double post, but with a better wrapper and index around the same content. The original one was my very first MetaFilter FPP.
posted by Asparagirl at 10:34 PM on August 24, 2011

The thing that really struck me about the time right after 9/11 was how the normally-prepackaged media was completely flummoxed. No slick graphics, no canned music themes, just amazingly raw. Within a few days, they'd recovered, but those couple of days were something.
posted by rmd1023 at 5:48 AM on August 25, 2011 [3 favorites]

LogicalDash, I agree that stores selling September 11th memorabilia are pretty gross. But the Twin Towers become symbolic, as EmpressCallipygos points out, there are an awful lot of people who did not directly experience September 11th from Lower Manhattan, who did not lose someone specific, but who still felt the loss and for whom the picture on TV of the towers burning really *is* their September 11th. My mom's family is from Brooklyn and the New York skyline is something I was very familiar with. Bridges scared me an awful lot when I was younger, and the only way I'd look out over the Verrazano if we were visiting my grandfather in Staten Island was if I could see the Manhattan skyline.

This past weekend was the first time I was in Lower Manhattan since August of 2001, and I coincidentally took the Staten Island Ferry both times. Though I've seen the skyline a gazillion times since then, though we were crossing the Verrazano with armed soldiers on both sides back in September of 2001, though I watched all the TV and read all the news, it was so amazingly visceral to look back at the skyline past Battery Park and have it be wrong. And its wrongness emphasized the fact that those two giant buildings not being there meant that many of the people who belonged in those two giant buildings were also not there.
posted by ChuraChura at 6:10 AM on August 25, 2011

I dread the bullshit patriotic "woe is us" that's going to happen this year.

I've been loathing it for the past ten years. I was already uneasy three days after the fact, when I was in a conversation with my then-boyfriend and we were both talking about how the swell of patriotism was starting to freak us out a little. "I'm just afraid that waving the flag is sooner or later going to turn into waving the flag AT someone," I said. And sure enough, one month later...

The thing that gets me is that the people who do the loudest "woe is me" handwringing are people who actually dislike New York City otherwise. During the "Ground Zero Mosque" thing a year ago, I got into it with someone online who declared that the mosque was besmirching the memory of the brave men and women who died in the attacks -- but then when I pointed out that lots of New Yorkers were okay with it, in the very next sentence he said that New York was a slime pit so who cared what we thought?

I truly and honestly think that there are some people in this country who think, deep down, that the attacks maybe didn't kill enough of us New Yorkers. They'd have been perfectly fine if the whole city was just wiped off the map altogether, so they could have the space as a nice sanitized memorial without dealing with the reality of people they disagree with.

That's the space I've been in for ten years. And as such -- I can honestly say that a few months after 9/11, I could forgive Bin Laden (for certain definitions of "forgive"); but I have not yet forgiven some of my own countrymen, and I'm not sure I will be able to do so for a while.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:38 AM on August 25, 2011 [2 favorites]

I've seen every piece of 9/11 footage, pro and amateur alike, that exists from NYC, DC, London, and so on, and I don't care if I ever see any of it again. The best film about it is 102 Minutes that Changed America, made by Nicole Rittenmeyer, I think.
posted by Ideefixe at 3:28 PM on August 25, 2011

New York Magazine: The Encyclopedia of 9/11.
posted by ericb at 1:41 PM on August 29, 2011

What if you could watch every channel on 9/11?


Well, if I did, I'd probably give myself lame, self-induced PTSD.

I think I'll read the wiki page instead.
posted by Elysum at 5:11 PM on August 30, 2011

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