For many New Yorkers, Americans, and people around the world, they will never forget September 11, 2001. This, of course, was the day that terrorist group Al Qaeda flew two commercial passenger planes into the World Trade Centers in New York City. They also flew a plane into the Pentagon in Washington, DC, and another crashed in Pennsylvania before reaching its destination. More than two decades later, there is a growing number of Americans who don’t remember the 9/11 attacks, either because they were too young or were not yet born. That’s what makes this never-before-seen footage of the attacks so important.
Never-Before-Seen Footage of the 9/11 Attacks Taken By A Student
On the morning of 9/11, Caroline Dries was asleep in the apartment she shared with a couple of other roommates. All of them were studying and living at New York University at the time. The incredibly loud sound of the first plane striking the World Trade Centers woke her and her roommates up. Having just bought her first video camera, she grabbed it off the stand where she’d left it from the night before and started filming. (1)
At the same time, she was speaking to her mother over the phone. You can hear her saying in the video that she and her roommates thought that there was some kind of explosion in one of the towers. You can also hear her roommates questioning things that they were seeing falling from the tower. They said it looked like people, jumping from the tower.
“It looks like an airplane crashed into the building,” you can hear someone say in the background. “Thank God it wasn’t terrorists, though.”
The Moment It Sunk In
Shortly after Caroline started filming, the second plane hit. That’s when everyone in the room realized the gravity of the situation. Terrified and panicking, they decided to exit the building. Caroline continued to film, capturing the pure chaos on the streets. That’s when they decided that it was perhaps more dangerous in the street than in their apartment, so they returned inside.
“It was just kind of pandemonium with no one knowing what [was] happening.” Caroline recalled.
From their apartment, Caroline captured the immense cloud of dust that rapidly consumed the city, covering everything and everyone in its path.
“It looked like a monster, like something out of a horror movie,” Caroline said. “Just this massive dust cloud consuming everything in its path.”
The footage is an incredibly raw depiction of what it was actually like in Manhattan that day. Now an accomplished Hollywood writer and producer, she still says that was the most important “cinema” she has ever captured in her career.
“It took kind of ten years for me to understand why this footage is special. People, I think, want to remember the details clearly and to hold onto it because they know how significant it was.” she said.
Another person who witnessed the 9/11 attacks also recently made public a video on YouTube where you can see the second plane clearly flying into the second tower. In his caption, he says that he actually published the video in the early 2000’s but did not realize it was set to “private” until now. At about the two-minute mark you can see the second plane fly directly into the second tower. (2)
It is then that the crowd around him truly starts panicking. They are screaming, with many shouting asking what is going on. You can hear someone asking those around him “Did you see that? Did you see that?” in utter disbelief. He goes on to film the chaos that ensued in the streets afterward.
A survivor from the South Tower, Joseph Dittmar, describes what it was like while they were fleeing the building. He, along with many others, had to run down over 100 flights of stairs to escape the building before it collapsed.
“The fire stairwell that we were inside, the concrete bunker started to shake so violently from side to side, the handrails breaking away from the wall, the concrete spidering out, the steps were like waves in the ocean under our feet,” he recalled. “(it felt like a) heat ball blowing by as we smell jet fuel … This thing [stairwell] is just rocking back and forth. It felt like forever, it was seconds, maybe a minute. When it settled, you would have thought there would have been pandemonium, but we responded with just a stunned silence.” (3)
The Day That Changed History
In the 9/11 attacks, 3,000 people in New York, Washington, and Pennsylvania lost their lives in those terrorist attacks. There are countless stories of acts of incredible bravery from the people who were on the planes, those in the buildings, as well as the emergency responders who went in on rescue missions, many of who never returned.
Ask any American who was old enough to remember the events of the day, whether they lost a loved one or not, and they will tell you: that 9/11 was a day that everything changed. History changed. The War On Terror in Afghanistan began. People’s sense of security changed.
Now, however, two decades later, nearly one-fifth of the country does not remember or have much of a personal connection with the attacks. They were either not old enough to remember them or weren’t even born yet. This is why videos such as these, as difficult as they are to watch, are important.
The 9/11 attacks weren’t just an important and impactful part of American history, but also in world history. If we don’t continue to tell the stories of what happened that day, people will forget. No matter our opinions on war, we cannot forget what happened that day and all the brave women and men who lost their lives in those attacks. (4)
- “Student shoots video of WTC on 9/11 A former NYU student ….” Youtube. CNN. September 12, 2011
- “9-11 Kevin’s Video with raw audio (includes swearing).” Youtube. Kevin Westley. February 24, 2022.
- “World marks 20th anniversary of 9/11 attack.” DW
- “Two Decades Later, the Enduring Legacy of 9/11.” Pew Search. Hannah Hartig and Carroll Doherty. September 2, 2021.