Jon Scott: 9/11 was an unimaginable event – Here's my hope and prayer on this somber anniversary

It began as the most ordinary—and beautiful—of days.

Fox News Channel was still new, having arrived on the world’s TV sets less than five years earlier.  We were preparing the 9 a.m. hour of “Fox News Live,” as we called it then. I was to interview the author of a new book about the death penalty, as well as a musician launching a comeback tour.

Then came the unthinkable.


The darkest rages of the human heart blotted out the bright September sun, first in New York City, then Washington, D.C., and finally in Shanksville, Pennsylvania.

It was a little before nine that morning.  I was opening the door to Studio E, already wearing the communications pack that allows colleagues in the control room to communicate through my earpiece.  My producer’s voice suddenly shattered what had been a mundane Tuesday morning: “Jon Scott, get to the studio—NOW!!!”

I told him I was already there and asked what was up.  “A plane just flew into the World Trade Center!”

The “Fox & Friends” team was already covering the story, what little we knew of it, but even though the North Tower was burning just a few miles south of our building, no media outlets had a video feed yet.

The anchors could only talk about the news flashes coming into their laptops:  that a “small plane” had hit the World Trade Center and that the upper floors of the building were on fire.

We weren’t fighting with one another after 9/11. We weren’t carping over little things. We weren’t Republicans and Democrats—we were Americans. 

Within moments, a news chopper arrived and began beaming a live video feed.  “Fox & Friends” ended their program early, about five minutes before nine, and handed off to my team and me.

It would be the worst day to be in the news business.  It would be the worst day any of us had ever seen.

The unimaginable happened. And it all unfolded on live television. Madmen deliberately flew jetliners loaded with people into office buildings—before that day, who could have imagined such depravity?

I certainly couldn’t.

In the early minutes of our coverage, my team connected me by phone with a former National Transportation Safety Board investigator who’d handled many air crash investigations. How, I asked him, on a bright blue-sky day, could a pilot have flown into the World Trade Center?

The idea that it was deliberate seemed unthinkable. He began to answer, explaining that pilots could have been blinded by the sun, distracted by workload or maybe punched the wrong coordinates into their flight computers….

Then came the real answer.  A second jet swooped ominously low in the bottom right corner of the TV monitor I was watching as I spoke to the former-NTSB guest.  It briefly disappeared behind the “banner” at the bottom of the screen.  The helicopter providing the TV image was slowly circling the Trade Center, and at that moment, the two buildings were in perfect alignment so that the south tower was hidden behind the north.  Suddenly, the huge fireball erupted from somewhere behind the north tower, but I couldn’t see where.

My mind couldn’t process the evils we all were seeing.  For a split second, I thought our director had somehow located a video recording of the first strike on the north tower and was replaying it.

The helicopter continued its slow, sad circle.

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The south tower came into view, its shattered façade now belching horrifying flame and smoke into the blue sky while pieces of the building and its contents fluttered to earth, glittering in the September sunshine.

I cut off the interview with the NTSB expert.

“This has to be deliberate, folks,” I said.  And then, my voice shaking with emotion, swallowing hard to try to maintain composure, I spoke the name of the only suspect I could think of who might have planned something so horrifying: “Usama bin Laden.”

I was about to write that “you know what happened from that point on…” but it’s not entirely true.

That horrific morning is now 18 years behind us; there is now a generation of Americans who didn’t watch it unfold on live television.

They don’t have the memories that seared the mind as we watched them, together.

Huge jetliners and their terrified passengers, obliterated in an instant.

Office workers leaning out broken windows, desperately gasping for the crisp September air that still wafted outside their 110-story hell. Some of them ultimately jumping, a few even holding hands as they leapt together, choosing a quick end over slow immolation.

That is why we at Fox do not randomly run images of that day.  The events of 9/11 cannot, should not, be reduced to what’s become known as “wallpaper video.”

Nearly 3,000 of our mothers, brothers, fathers, sisters, sons and daughters went to work or boarded planes that morning… and never came home.

Firefighters, police officers and everyday citizens gave their own lives trying to save others.

The worst impulses of the human heart were met with their uplifting counterpart; confronted with evils like we have never seen, Americans responded with courage, love—and sacrifice.

Remember, if you can, the immediate aftermath.

We weren’t fighting with one another after 9/11. We weren’t carping over little things. We weren’t Republicans and Democrats—we were Americans.

We had work to do, and we joined hands together to get it done.

I recall saying something on air late that day about how the terrorists had knocked a few buildings down, but that America would pick herself up, dust herself off and come back strong.

My hope and my prayer, as we mark another 9/11, is that the memories of that awful day will spark in us a renewal of the spirit that came after it, that we treat each other with the kindness, respect and even love that we all saw in the aftermath of the attacks in 2001.


The world was watching as America was attacked, and America responded with strength and determination.  But--in the less than two decades since, the civility of our discourse and the regard we shared for one another after that terror attack on our nation has largely disappeared.

So on 9/11, watch the terrible video.  Remember that day, if you lived it.


If you didn’t, watch the images that we ONLY replay on this day and try to comprehend how frightening, how painful, how terrible it truly was, and resolve to remember the victims through acts of kindness and compassion.

The terrorists tried to bring down the United States of America that day.  Eighteen years later, let’s not let them win.