Breathtaking: TV Replays 9/11's Live Coverage:

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I am right now watching MSNBC now for its replay of the Today Show's live coverage of the events of the morning of September 11, 2001. Like watching similar replays of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, the video is both chilling and fascinating each time it's played, each time I watch it. It is chilling because, of course, we all know how that horrible day ended, whereas Matt and Katie and the gang don't. It's fascinating, I believe, because it is, in effect, the final testimony from the survivors of the pre-9/11 world.

The video -- not just from NBC but from all of the networks who bravely covered the news that day -- ought to be required viewing in every college journalism and history and political science class. "This is how some of the best journalists of the day handled by far the biggest story of our time. This is how the American government functioned at that time." It is an ugly picture. You can tell in some of the questions from the anchors -- and certainly in the responses from the reporters -- just how tough it was for the enormity of the situation to sink in. They just couldn't believe or have imagined what they were seeing with their own eyes -- and yet the reporting, even in retrospect, is really good.



The video ought to be required viewing for every member of our vast national security force, including our current members of Congress and especially those who came to their jobs after 9/11. "This is what chaos looks like. This is what bad intelligence brings. This is what happens if you don't do your job." Watching that morning unfold again in the comfort of the future, I keep thinking of how much officials knew but weren't saying in those initial minutes and hours. They knew about the August memo about planes flying into buildings. They knew about the increased chatter among terror suspects.

To go back to that morning, to feel its dread, is to wipe away the fog of nine, long, memorable years. It wipes away the Iraq War. And Afghanistan. And Abu Ghraib. It is to return to the essence, the raw, gorey details, of the event that has changed us all forever. It is to return to the scene and the time of the greatest crime in America. It is to ensure, as difficult as it is to watch, that we really won't ever forget.

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Andrew Cohen is a contributing editor at The Atlantic, 60 Minutes' first-ever legal analyst, and a fellow at the Brennan Center for Justice. He is also chief analyst for CBS Radio News and has won a Murrow Award as one of the nation's leading legal journalists. More

Cohen is the winner of the American Bar Association’s 2012 Silver Gavel Award for his Atlantic commentary about the death penalty in America and the winner of the Humane Society’s 2012 Genesis Award for his coverage of the plight of America’s wild horses. A racehorse owner and breeder, Cohen also is a two-time winner of both the John Hervey and O’Brien Awards for distinguished commentary about horse racing.

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