A Never-Before-Published Interview With the Filmmakers Who Captured the 9/11 Attack
They happened to be filming the exact moment the first plane hit the World Trade Center
Saturday is the 20th anniversary of September 11, something I cannot believe to be true. I lived in New York City on September 11, 2001, a 24-year-old kid who was barely employed and didn’t have the foggiest idea of what he was doing with his life. I was working as a receptionist at Mount Sinai hospital on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, and after the attack, the hospital mobilized for an expected influx of victims needing medical attention, but once everyone realized there weren’t any — that, on the whole, you either made it out, or you didn’t — they sent most of us home. No work was getting done the rest of the day, and, really, for a while afterward.
Everyone who was around September 11, 2001 — and especially those of us who lived in New York — has their 9/11 stories, and they tend to be infinitely fascinating to the person telling them and considerably less so for whomever is listening. I was fortunate that I did not lose anyone close to me on September 11, which does not change the fact that my life, nor the life of pretty much everyone I know, hasn’t quite been the same since then. It was 20 years ago, it was yesterday, it was a million eons ago. It was forever then, and remains so.
So, this anniversary week, I decided to focus on a story I can tell that most people haven’t heard. In 2010, New York, the magazine I’ve written for for 16 years, started putting together its 10th anniversary issue, “The Encyclopedia of 9/11.” I was assigned three pieces for the magazine, and all three of them turned out well. Unfortunately, that was a stacked issue, and two of them didn’t make it. The best one, I thought, was an interview I did with the Naudet brothers. If you’ll remember, the Naudet brothers were making a documentary on a New York City firehouse on the morning of September 11 when, while shooting some routine B-roll footage, they heard a roar overhead. They panned the camera up and … caught the only images of the first plane hitting the North Tower of the World Trade Center.