News from the day of September 11, 2001. NPR's Morning Edition with Bob Edwards, beginning a half hour before the initial reports. The first 2 hours.
September 10, 2011

The World Trade Center on an average late Summer Morning. Nothing unusual, nothing special. And then nothing.

I doubt anyone is going to pay much attention to this post. The thing about the World Trade Center Bombing is that it's a visual point in history. Seemingly every site is devoted to footage and chaos - there's so much of it. The site of planes slamming into the towers and their horrific collapse is burned into everyone's memory. And we've become such a visual culture. Spoken words don't seem to convey the true nature of terror. Don't, strangely, do it justice.

But sometimes the effect of seeing the planes and watching the towers collapse over and over coats the event in an aura of unreality; an abstract set of images that could just as easily become a trailer for the latest action film. The true horror becomes buried in overkill and the urge to shut down and block out is great.

I remember that particular September 11th morning very well. On the West Coast we woke up to it almost after the event. And for the next week the images of planes slamming into the Twin Towers and the monolithic collapse were played over and over to the point of numbness mixed with a helpless sense of sickness.

Sometimes, the thing of collecting history is to somehow disassociate yourself from the feelings attached to an event. It is ironic that my archive got started as the result of another tragedy - the John F. Kennedy Assassination. Those feelings of helplessness and numbness were just as strong then. Maybe more so in 1963 because, as a twelve year old, my world hadn't been introduced to all the shades of reality I would be witness to as an adult. But in 1963 as in 2001 the compulsion to keep the recorders going was the same, despite everything. The horror and the chaos were packed neatly away into boxes and put on shelves for some later date when the numbness wore off and the helplessness faded away.

As luck (or fate) would have it, I inadvertently began recording NPR's Morning Edition instead of the usual BBC World Service on that September morning. I set the timer the night before and the recording went off automatically as it has done for years.

The result is the first hour just prior to initial reports that a plane had crashed into the World Trade Center. Then anchor Bob Edwards, breaks into a story on education by Susan Stamberg, explains that "something has happened at the World Trade Center in New York". And the story unfolds from there for the next hour.

Not loaded with visuals, just reports coming in to a stunned anchor who has to maintain composure and put some sense into a story that had rapidly spun away from making any sense.

Maybe not dramatic and filled with knee-jerk emotions - just the inevitable horror of feeling helpless in the onslaught of history as it relentlessly unfolds.

Here are the first two hours of NPR's Morning Edition from around 5:20 am (PDT) to around 8:30 am (PDT) on the morning of September 11, 2001 - Ten years ago.

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