Ever since the 50th anniversary of the JFK assassination last Friday, I have been a bit fascinated by those huge, monumental events that shaped recent world history. The main one during my own lifetime, the one where everyone remembers exactly where they were and what they were doing when they first heard about it, was, of course, September 11th.
Now, September 11th is something that we all can remember. It is most often compared with the JFK assassination, and with some reason. In both cases, the weather on that day was described as ideal, beautiful. Both events were very violent and graphic events that shook the nation out of a relatively peaceful slumber beforehand. In both cases, I would argue, the nation, and perhaps even the world, would not return to be the same as it had been before the event.
I was not around, of course, for the Kennedy assassination. But I was around for September 11th. And I remember that shock, that sense of being overwhelmed by huge events unfolding right before your eyes. I know now that it came down to the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, as well as the plane that went down in western Pennsylvania. But for years, I also remember other things that almost whispered in my memory like rumors. Nobody else seemed to remember them. Things like a huge fire at the National Mall in Washington, fires in the Capitol Building and the State Department, a plane heading towards the White House. Those latter ones were, as it turns out, rumors, with no basis in fact, even though at the time, no one seemed to know for sure, and they just added on to that sense of the enormity of the events, and the overall confusion and sense of being overwhelmed. It was like we went from normal times, to all out war, overnight.
I spoke to a man who was older than me, and when I mentioned this, he told me that my description reminded him of the news coming out of Vietnam during the Tet Offensive, when it seemed like every news piece was about the Vietcong taking over this place, then that, and so on and so forth. It was one of the numerous things that greatly contributed to the overall plummeting popularity of that war.
A lot of people do not remember these things, these reports. And that sense of uncertainty and trepidation that we felt back then may have been forgotten once certainty was achieved as to the scale of the attack. Four planes was bad enough, but all of those other things made it seem even more incredible and overwhelming than it really was.
So, now that we have Youtube, where you can instantly watch almost anything of interest to you, and more often than not without having to pay, for the first time ever since September 11th itself, I watched much of the original broadcast of the events as they unfolded on that fateful day. And as they were reporting what amounted to rumors of events that were being reported, but which actually never took place, the memories flooded back to me. That feeling that I felt at that moment, of just being overwhelmed by the sheer number of huge events transpiring all at the same time, came back to me. The actual events that took place were more than enough for one day, but all of those extra rumors, that the Capitol building may have had a fire, that the State Department had been bombed, that there was a major fire on the National Mall in Washington, that another plane was heading towards New York City, this one aiming for the Empire State Building, it all came back.
Obviously, it's very different watching these events twelve years later, with the benefit of knowledge of what actually happened, as well as hindsight.
Cnn 09 11 2001 Live Unedited Cnn News Coverage Of Wtc Attacks F
BBC News Live 9/11
9/11/01 ABC New York Local A.M. Broadcast
ABC News Live 9/11
CBS2 NY News on 9/11/2001, 8:50 - 9:20 a.m.
CBS2 NY News on 9/11/2001, 10:19 - 10:49 a.m.
NBC News Coverage of the September 11, 2001, Terrorist Attacks (Part 1 of 2)
Inside The Twin Towers
- fire at the Pentagon
- reports of fire at Pentagon, and a helicopter circling area immediately beforehand
- fire at the National Mall
- White House evacuated, Pentagon evacuated, then Capitol building and State Department
- first tower collapses
- second tower collapses
- another plane was heading towards Manhattan, aiming this time for the Empire State Building
- car bomb at the State Department
- unconfirmed reports of a 747 down in western Pennsylvania
- reports that part of Pentagon collapsed
- all Federal buildings in Washington evacuated
- AP reports a second plane on way to Pentagon
- F-16 sent heading west to counter that second plane headed to Pentagon
- The Sears Tower in Chicago evacuated, reasons unclear.
- Later in the day, I also remember an airplane somewhere out West, I think it was in Texas somewhere, that had been surrounded and tailed by military aircraft, because there was some problem with it communicating. There was speculation that it might be shot down before it reached anything major, but nothing came of it, although it added to that sense that there was no end to this day, that these weird things would just continue to keep on going.
Yes, the rumors, I guess, are natural whenever some huge event like this takes place. Not sure why, or who starts them. But in all of the confusion, I guess these kinds of things are inevitable. In Washington, for example, perhaps people saw a large plume of smoke on a day when the Twin Towers in New York had already been attacked, and so perhaps people outside, in the suburbs, perhaps, believed this to be in Washington, DC proper. Perhaps the National Mall. Or, it would seem natural to assume that if there were still planes in the air unaccounted for, that they would be on their way to Manhattan to finish the job, so to speak, and strike at the Empire State Building, New York City's next tallest building after the Twin Towers.
Then, very quickly, the rumors are forgotten, and people remember what happened, and the focus is on the recovery efforts, as well as speculation on the ramifications.
I cannot say for sure what happened on the day of Kennedy's assassination, and if similar rumors were reported, and what these might have been. But those two days were the biggest such memorable days of monumental events in the news, and indeed in world history. And the 50th anniversary last week had me researching the Kennedy assassination like never before, watching broadcasts and hearing people talk about, seeing their reactions. Again, the only event that can really compare to that in my lifetime would be September 11th, and the comparisons between the two days seem to come naturally for Americans.
There were other huge, monumental events, though, where surely, people remember where they were when they happened. Americans perhaps do not have the same memory of these events, but they definitely have happened, and in the near future, maybe even tomorrow in time for Thanksgiving, I will reflect on these. Events that changed the world and put tears in the eyes of many, if for entirely different reasons. Events like the fall of the Berlin Wall, or perhaps Mandela's release from prison, to name only two. These surely live on in the memory of Germans and South Africans, as well as many others throughout the world, so that these surely qualify as those rare kind of "Where were you when it happened" news events, and I will focus on them as well.
I remember the circumstances when I first heard that a plane had struck one of the Twin Towers. Believe it or not, September 11th was the 30th anniversary for my parents, and we were all at home, and talking about the plans for the day, when this happened. My mom said something happened at the World Trade Center again, and so my automatic thought was terrorism. We saw the second plane hit, and then, of course, like so many other millions of people around the world, we were glued to the television, as the other news came out. Obviously, the plans for my parent's anniversary were forgotten.
But there were other huge events that were more positive, generally. In a future blog soon to come, I will focus on these, and not just the negatives.