Last week, the website WikiLeaks released half a million pager messages that were sent on Sept. 11, 2001. These messages provide a fascinating glimpse back at how people responded in real-time to the terrifying events of that Tuesday morning. While many of the messages are either unrelated to the attacks or simply the incomprehensible techno-babble of automated telecommunications, many others capture the raw emotional flavour of the chaos following the tragedy. People reach out to family and friends to see if they're safe, exchange "I love you" s, inform others who may not have heard about the terrorist acts and express -- often in colourful terms -- their shock and outrage.
The texts make for fascinating reading, and provoke some good discussions of the cliched, "Where were you when it happened?" variety. But a source I've found even more interesting, if chilling, is the Sept. 11 Television Archive ( www.archive.org/details/sept_11_tv_archive).Here, you can watch television coverage of the event as it happened, starting even before the attacks began. The videos cover the major American broadcasters -- CNN, ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox --as well as the BBC. The passage of time has not dulled the horror. It's still as much a kick in the gut as it was eight years ago. Indeed, watching the coverage again this morning, my eyes were glued to the handy little clocks the networks insert into their broadcasts alongside their corporate logos. A literal countdown. It's like watching a tragedy from afar, knowing it's going to happen, but being helpless to stop it. The feeling of dread is still overpowering.