What to read and watch on the 19th anniversary of 9/11


As 9/11 is remembered and reflected on, there is now more information, notes, news coverage, and reading to remember 9/11.

Brian Stelter, CNN Business

(CNN) — This year the anniversary of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks is being observed as America finds itself in the throes of multiple crises simultaneously.

With America in another period of mourning, for those lost from coronavirus, the memories of 19 years ago are freshly upsetting. I think this year’s anniversary feels a bit different for that reason.

Here are some notes about the news coverage, plus further readings and reflections: 

Nineteen years ago

  • The night before: WABC TV in New York posted video of the station’s late evening newscast from 9/10, including a weather forecast — “sunny and pleasant” — that is chilling in retrospect.
  • Great journalism helps us remember. Garrett Graff’s book “The Only Plane in the Sky: An Oral History of 9/11,” was just released in paperback. Read Graff’s Twitter thread about as well, “following Americans as they experience that day.”
  • HISTORY and WNYC have a new eight-part podcast series, “Blindspot: Road to 9/11,” led by reporter Jim O’Grady.
  • For more on the lead-up to 9/11, the ten-part television drama “The Looming Tower,” based on Lawrence Wright’s Pulitzer-Prize winning book of the same name, is streaming on Hulu.
  • It is important to remember that media workers were among the dead on 9/11. Six television transmission engineers were killed while working inside the North Tower. And photographer Bill Biggart was killed while covering the attacks.
  • Most Americans experienced 9/11 through the TV news coverage. What was it like inside the network control rooms and at the anchor desks? I wrote this reconstruction of the morning. This quote from Shelley Ross, the executive producer of “GMA” at the time, stands out: Ross said she was proud of her program’s 9/11 coverage “not only for what we put on the air, but what we DIDN’T put on the air.”
  • In 2016 I interviewed Aaron Brown about what it was like to anchor CNN’s coverage on that fateful day. “I was busy trying not to screw something up,” he said… “I just wanted to get it right. I wanted to get it right for my audience, for the audience, for the people who employed me. I wanted to get it right for the history.”
  • Who was “the falling man?” Read, or re-read, Tom Junod’s unforgettable Esquire story about Richard Drew’s photos of people falling from the burning towers.
  • “The Real Heroes Are Dead:” James B. Stewart’s 2002 story about Rick Rescorla is timeless.

So united then, so splintered now 

The aforementioned Garrett Graff has a couple of new pieces putting 9/11 into 2020 perspective. Writing for The Atlantic, he points out that the attacks “taught Americans a new set of rituals for collective grief.” But the grief of 2020 feels so different: “Why does our country, so united after 9/11, feel so splintered now?” He has some answers here.

Graff has also published an essay for the Wall Street Journal about 9/11 and the rise of digital-age conspiracy theorists. He says the durability of 9/11 trutherism, nearly 20 years after the attack, “suggests that we are likely to be stuck for a long time with more recent conspiracist movements such as QAnon.”

Along those same lines, John McDermott has a new story for Esquire about a 9/11-conspiracy-theory film “that laid the groundwork for our culture of outrageous misinformation.”

Why this year’s remembrances look different on TV

Associated Press reporter Jennifer Peltz’s headline says it all: “In a year of restrictions, virus changes September 11. too.” Peltz notes New York City’s “dueling” ceremonies at the September 11 memorial plaza and the World Trade Center reflect a “divide over the memorial’s decision to suspend a cherished tradition of relatives reading victims’ names in person.”

There will be some special broadcasts on television later in the day. At 8 p.m. Eastern, ABC will re-air “9/11 Remembered: The Day We Came Together,” a special filmed at the 2014 opening of the 9/11 Memorial Museum. The History Channel will air two documentaries about the attack at the Pentagon and the hijacking of Flight 93. PBS “FRONTLINE” also has several documentaries available via the internet.

The-CNN-Wire™ & © 2020 Cable News Network, Inc., a WarnerMedia Company. All rights reserved.