Yesterday was the 13th anniversary of the september 11th attacks, and it passed with the usual volume of memorials, think pieces, and status reports on the forever changed post 9-11 America. But one thing that seems conspicuously absent from the web are "of the moment" accounts of the attacks as they were taking place.
The web of 2001 was much less immediate and interactive. Today, we would have an incredible corpus of by-the-minute reactions to the event, but 13 years ago, live interaction that remains archived and available in perpetuity was scarce. Yesterday, the Smithsonian ran an article about one of the best primary digital documents, a thread on the website Metafilter of people's reactions to the event as it happened.
The thread begins:
Plane crashes in to the word trade center. Apologies for not linking to anything besides the main CNN page but there are no full stories on this yet. The plane crashed into the building about six minutes ago, from what the TV is saying. We are about sixty blocks north and we can see the smoke over the skyline.
The comments are MetaFilter users speculating as to whether it was a terrorist attack, and talking about how most major news sites were so slammed by traffic that they couldn't stay up. The play by play and first person as-they-happen narratives of trying to make sense of the situation are riveting:
My entire workplace witnessed the 2nd plane crash. It looks like the first one hit near the top of the building with the anntenna. The second circled around and hit the other building somewhere near the middle.
posted by Cavatica at 9:34 AM on September 11, 2001 [+] [!]
And then, of course, there are a few comments, prophesying the world that was to come.
my greatest fear is how our government is going to respond. more erosion of freedom in the name of security. mark my words.
posted by rebeccablood at 10:10 AM on September 11, 2001 [283 favorites +] [!]
We're taught to think of the internet as forever, but I think it's telling just how few sites like this remain up, as well as how many links in that thread are now broken. It's a haunting read, but definitely worth your time.
(unrelated but also worth watching - a video that shows the first 15 minutes of attack reporting on six major TV networks simultaneously)