Understanding 9/11: A Television News Archive

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The morning of September 11, for many of us, was spent glued to a television set, trying to parse the information that streamed from dozens of news channels. News anchors worked frantically to figure out what was happening, while we stared endlessly at the same shots of the smoking Twin Towers. 

In the days that followed, the team at Internet Archive worked with dozens of individuals and organizations to begin archiving this visual history. They collected over 3,000 hours of TV from 20 channels recorded on September 11 and over the course of the next week. Three years before YouTube launched, they made it available online. Now, they've relaunched the collection with a visually powerful interface -- a matrix of clips, organized on a minute-to-minute timeline -- Understanding 9/11. 

The importance of the archive becomes clear as you watch each channel begin to piece together the breaking news. At 9:02am the crew in the Fox News room gasps just before the second explosion fills the left side of the frame; off-screen, the second plane has hit the other Tower. 

It's visually and emotionally overwhelming to dive in, so for a streamlined experience, they've put together a summary of key events, curating a sequence of videos from various channels. The video is not embeddable, but I encourage you to check it out. This is an amazing step in building a visual history of our era, rich with insights. 

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Kasia Cieplak-Mayr von Baldegg is the executive producer for video at The AtlanticMore

Cieplak-Mayr von Baldegg's work in media spans documentary television, advertising, and print. As a producer in the Viewer Created Content division of Al Gore's Current TV, she acquired and produced short documentaries by independent filmmakers around the world. Post-Current, she worked as a producer and strategist at Urgent Content, developing consumer-created and branded nonfiction campaigns for clients including Cisco, Ford, and GOOD Magazine. She studied filmmaking and digital media at Harvard University, where she was co-creator and editor in chief of H BOMB Magazine.

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