The world has changed since 2001, but 9/11 footage and images have lost none of their shocking impact
There are some moments in history you vividly remember living through.
I may not have been alive for the first moon landing, but I do remember the fall of the Berlin Wall, Nelson Mandela’s walk to freedom and the release of Beirut hostages John McCarthy and Terry Waite.
All were witnessed in the days before 24-hour news channels, watched on the family television on the News at Six or ITN News at Ten in the living room of my childhood home and read in the next day’s newspapers at the breakfast table.
I may have been too young to understand the full significance of events, but those television images and newspaper front pages are imprinted on my memories.
Roll forward a few years to September 11, 2001, and my experience of one of the biggest global stories of recent decades was slightly different.
Where were you when you heard about 9/11? It’s a question I expect most could answer.
My husband was helping a friend to Artex my father-in-law’s living room ceiling, one colleague was in the newsroom of a daily newspaper watching it unfold on a big screen; another was told after a meditation session in Devon.
I was sat in the bedroom of a houseshare in Darlington. Two days earlier I’d moved up from Suffolk to start my six-month journalism training.
The owner of the house didn’t have a TV licence (or a television), so I hadn’t taken my portable telly up with me. Instead, I was sat on the bed with the radio on, practising my shorthand.
While trying to form the as-yet unfamiliar outlines to the general radio chit-chat, a breaking news item cut into the regular show. It was not long before my notebook was laid down as I digested the significance of what I was hearing.
It scarcely seemed real, yet just minutes later reports filtered through of a second aeroplane flying into the south tower of the World Trade Center before a third crash, this time into the Pentagon.
Using my mobile phone, I called my then-boyfriend and he described what he was seeing on television. We were on the line when the first tower collapsed. After our call, I resumed listening to the radio.
It wasn’t until the next morning, at the newsagents, that I saw any images of the events in New York.
I bought copies of almost every daily paper that day, all with the iconic image of the burning Twin Towers on the front page, before heading into college.
There, normal lessons were abandoned as we discussed what had happened, dissected the newspaper and television reporting of events, and watched news coverage.
Living in the 2021 world of smartphones, smart televisions, news apps, news channels and social media it is hard to comprehend anyone now only having access to a radio during an event of such global significance.
As we reach the 20th anniversary of 9/11, while I have seen the footage multiple times over the decades, it has lost none of its shocking impact.