The Scenes of 9/11 in Your Living Room

“Mom! Mom! Mom! A plane just hit a big building” Rudy said to his mom rushing to get ready for work. “Honey, I’m getting ready for work I’ll see later”, replied Rudy’s mom. “Mom! Another plane hit a building! There’s fire!” Rudy explained. Rudy’s mom came rushing over and from then on, America has been different. I was only in sixth grade when the World Trade Center and America was attacked. But, I vividly remember watching the morning news and seeing the images. I can remember watching KTLA anchor, Carlos Amezcua report on the images I saw. The images were so raw, and no one knew what was going on. The media in America handled the 9/11 attacks like everyone expected them to. However, the media did not have a good reputation before 9/11,  the media reported on stories as they saw them and did it around the clock, and the media coverage affected everyone watching.

The first mistake the media made was before the 9/11 attacks happened. The American media only focused on domestic stories and there were few international stories. Americans lived in a bubble. One example of a story that should have made news before 9/11, “According to one NBC News report, 80 percent of the baggage screeners at Dulles Airport outside of Washington were non-citzens” (McGowan, 2). It is absurd that this story was not reported on before 9/11. Another airport related story not reported on before 9/11 was, “While 94 foreign airlines had extended cooperation (with watch lists of ‘high-risk’ passengers) Egypt Air, and Saudi Arabian Airlines refused to do so and continued to refuse, even after 9/11” (McGowan, 1). If this kind of story happened today. the media would have a field day with it. The United States media seemed to have blinders on to world affairs pre-9/11. If the media would have been aware of current affairs around the world, Americans would have demanded more questions, but when Americans have no idea about certain stories, Americans cannot ask more questions, and that is the media’s gatekeeper’s fault.

September 11th, 2001 was a day that will go down as one of America’s saddest days. Dr. Matthew Robinson a Professor at Appalachian State University said this point, “On September 11th, 2001, the United States was attacked by terrorists like it had never been attacked before. Even the attacks of Pearl Harbor by the Japanese on December 7th, 1941, were not as deadly” (Robinson, 1). As simple of a remark this is, it sheds light on how the media coverage was. Technology has advanced so far since Pearl Harbor and the media has advanced as well. The media was learning how to report on a tragedy as the tragedy unfolded. Orville Schell, Dean of the Graduate School of Journalism at University of California, Berkeley told Newsweek, “I thought all of them (news networks) pulled themselves up by the bootstraps and, considering the defoliated state of their global reach, they did pretty well. You could see they wanted to do well. They cared about doing well. They had the time to do well. For the moment, they also had the resources” (Schell, 2). There is little doubt that the journalists on 9/11 from Ground Zero to Los Angeles wanted to report the facts. But, when it is pure chaos it is hard to put a solid package together so most of them did live shots with man on the street reactions. Dean Schell brings up a brilliant point about 9/11 and the media, “I think September 11 was an enormous tragedy, but for the media it was also an extraordinary opportunity to remind itself and its keepers of why it’s important, why the media is more than just entertainment” (Schell, 2). Everyone one in America sat in their living rooms glued to their television and for once to not be entertained by the bantering of the weatherman and anchors but for the facts. On Twitter, film student @JoshSiegers said, “I remember coming home to TV fixed on the towers and then them falling live. It was crazy. Directors of the broadcast did great!” It is those kind of reactions that so many Americans felt on September 11th and the days following.

Everyone in America knows how the media handled the attack, but how was the attack shown overseas? It was taken as America did this to themselves for their past behaviors. In the book titled, “How the World’s News Media Reacted to 9/11” by Tomaz Pludowski it states:

“In an article written for the Guardian two days after 9/11, UK-based journalist

Seamus Milne blamed the American people themselves, including those killed

in the World Trade Center buildings that morning, for the atrocity. By their

‘unabashed national egotism and arrogance,’ argued Milne, and their failure

to address “the injustices and inequalities” that, in his view, motivated the

bombers, they had gotten more or less what they deserved, “once again

reaping a dragon’s teeth harvest they themselves sowed.” A contributor to

the London Review of Books declared in an essay a few days later that ‘however

tactfully you dress it up, the United States had it coming. World bullies, even

if their heart is in the right place, will in the end pay the price” (Pludowski, 38).

This response was the complete opposite to what Americans were feeling days after 9/11. Most Americans were asking, why us? Not, I guess we got what we deserved.

The attacks affected everyone, even children watching the images before their eyes. I was in sixth grade when the attacks happened and I can remember watching the towers fall into the streets of New York City. I can also picture people jumping from the tower with sheets acting as parachutes. That image is something I will never forget. So, how did the media’s coverage of 9/11 affect the children like myself? A study from Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School showed these statistics: “ 3.8% did not watch any television coverage of the attacks. 25.9% watched under an hour of television coverage of the attacks. 22.3% watch one hour of television coverage of the attacks. 30.7% watched 2 to 4 hours of television coverage of the attacks. 4.8% watched 4 to 6 hours of television coverage of the attacks. 2.4% watched over 6 hours of television coverage of the attacks” (Tull, 1). Most children watched 2 to 4 hours of the television coverage. That is a very large amount of dramatic television for a child to taken in. With the raw images of the attack, one must think about future risk such as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). In the study, “They found that 5.4% of children and 1.2% of parents in the study had symptoms consistent with a diagnosis of PTSD stemming from indirect exposure to 9/11 events. An additional 18.7% of children and 10.7% of parents showed some symptoms of PTSD, but not enough for an official PTSD diagnosis” (Tull, 1). In the book “Packaging Terrorism” by Susan Moeller she says, “For Americans, linking the words ‘terrorism’ and ‘victims’ together still, years later, calls up memories of those who perished in the World Trade Center” (Moller, 62).  It brings another sense of how traumatic the 9/11 attack was to know that a child like myself in California could have PTSD just from watching television coverage of 9/11.

All in all, 9/11 impacted every single American. The media painted the picture of how deadly this attack was. The news was the most important thing in Americans lives the day of the attack and days following. Those are big shoes to fill for the media networks, when all of America was watching. I know I was watching the buildings fall as I was getting ready for school and I know my fellow Americans were watching the same thing.