TV News Reflects on 9/11/2001: ASU’s Aaron Brown, ABC’s David Muir

By Alex Weprin Comment

With the 10th anniversary of the 9/11/2001 terrorist attacks approaching, TVNewser reached out to anchors, reporters, producers and executives for their thoughts on that day, and what they believe has changed in the last 10 years.

Arizona State University’s “Walter Cronkite Professor of Journalism” Aaron Brown, who anchored on CNN that day. It was first day on-air at CNN:

I did a lot of television that day, emotionally I think I ran the gamut from a feeling of total stupidity, along with shock and horror when the first tower fell. There I was just trying to hold this broadcast together, hold myself together, the broadcast seemed to be doing fine. This huge thing happened, one of the things an anchor needs to do in those moments is to be one step ahead of what is happening, try and anticipate what is happening. And here is the biggest thing that could possibly happen and I didn’t anticipate it at all. There were a lot of scenarios, but I didn’t think that. And then you start to hear a clock ticking because you know that at some point, a minute, 10 minutes and hour who knows, the second tower is coming down too.

One of the weird memories of the day was Walter Isaacson, who ran CNN at the time and was my boss, and was incredibly smart guy and a great news guy. The only time I remember a boss coming up on the roof, he came up and said “this isn’t a story, this is history. And I thought that was spot on, that is exactly right. This is so beyond anything any of us had other done, I thought that was a great way to put it. We really were doing history that day, history is the kind of event where you say ‘where were you when you heard? And we were all going to remember where we were when we heard.

ABC’s David Muir, who was a local anchor in Boston in 2001:

At the time I was an anchor at ABC’s Boston affiliate WCVB. I was at home and remember getting a phone call from a friend that morning who said simply, “You must turn on the television. They believe a plane just hit one of the twin towers.” Like millions of others across the country who heard something awful was unfolding in New York, I turned on the TV in time to watch the second plane hit in stunned disbelief. Part of the cruelty of that day was that so many eyes were trained on those buildings as that second plane flew into frame.  I remember Peter Jennings, at one point, urging parents, “If… you’ve got a kid is some other part of the country, call them up.” It was a moment during which you realized we were all in this together.