What We Saw

How September 11 looked on TV

I usually avoid the vice of early morning TV. I listen to the radio, which has become, by default, the generally preferred intellectual medium, providing more information per minute more densely, stripped as it is of the crutch of visual images. But, unfortunately, some visual images are the story.

On September 11, shortly after 8 a.m. in the Midwest, a sonorous male voice during NPR’s "Morning Edition" said, rather hesitantly, "It’s been reported a plane has struck the World Trade Center." I pictured many things at once, but I put down my razor and walked into the living room and turned on the television.

There it was, on the screen, Tower One burning like a cheap candle, smoke billowing upwards. It had been no small plane.

I stood watching and then saw a large jet curving toward the second tower and heard, not really hearing, since the sight was so stunning, a Fox News male voice say something like, "Here comes another one!"

It was now more than clear this was no accident. The tape of the second plane coming at the tower was run again and again. Both towers were now aflame and I said to myself that those towers would be coming down soon. It was unthinkable that the towers’ structural supports wouldn’t have been cut or damaged beyond their tolerances.

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About the Author

William O’Rourke’s most recent book is Campaign America 2000: The View from the Couch (Preview Port Editions). He is professor of English at the University of Notre Dame and a weekly political columnist for the Chicago Sun-Times.