Unlike most Americans, I didn’t have a television on Sept. 11, 2001. So, unlike most Americans, I learned about the 9/11 attacks via another medium: an e-mail alerts from the New York Times.
When I checked my e-mail that morning, this missive from the newspaper was my first inkling of the terrible events that had begun to unfold:
Tuesday, September 11, 2001 — 8:50 AM EST
Plane Crashes Into World Trade Center
A plane crashed into Manhattan’s World Trade Center this morning, causing heavy damage and fire to several floors.
I envisioned a single-engine plane and a tragedy that was nowhere near the scope of what had occurred.
Then this e-mail arrived:
Tuesday, September 11, 2001 — 9:04 AM EST
Type headline here
A second plane has crashed into the World Trade Center towers, according to the Associated Press.
Headline-Less Alert Underscored Event’s Gravity
It may seem peculiar to some, but to me, the biggest tip-off of the horrible magnitude of events wasn’t that a second plane had crashed–after all, there’s still no detail about the size of either plane. Instead, I couldn’t help but note that a Times editor had been so frantic that he or she failed to insert a headline before clicking “send.”