September 12, 2011

2001 Coverage of 9/11

So I couldn't tear myself away from the uninterrupted 9/11 replay of the Today Show coverage from ten years ago. It was something I'd always wanted to see because I was at work at that time and so wasn't able to follow the events in real time. I always wondered how the anchors and television personalities handled it, and the team of Matt Lauer, Katie Couric and Tom Brokaw did an exceptional job. Many of their insights have stood the test of time. Brokaw understood this was an act of war unparalleled for a century, and that we would now be potentially giving up some of our freedoms, that this would be a changed country.

I was also relieved that neither me nor the anchors saw people jumping out of the buildings. That's something I really didn't want to see.

Couric, who only once looked a bit choked up, emphasized the human cost while Brokaw seemed fixated, at times, by things like air travel being suspended and the effect of our liberties being henceforth circumscribed.

Watching the coverage it's easy to remember the tragedy of it, but another way to view it was how many more lives could've been lost. I remember doing the math at the time, having heard there were about 20,000 or more in the towers likely at the time. I figured about half might be dead, for 10,000 total. So another way to see it was as a success as far as evacuating people - thank God for the fast and efficient elevators and the first responders who helped - such that about 75-80% people in the towers that day were saved. Fortunately the towers at the time were only about half-filled. The dividing line of life or death turned out to be the floors the plane hit: if you were above the floors of impact you likely didn't survive, if you were below you did. And fortunately the planes struck the higher floors, though that is no comfort to the thousands who did lose their lives that day.

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