Media pause to reflect on Sept. 11 anniversary
NEW YORK – For all the journalistic firepower gathered to mark the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on Sunday, the small moments captured by cameras resonated most deeply.
A 21-year-old boy regretted that his father wasn't there to help him learn how to drive a car. Young hands grasped at a name etched in a memorial as if they could touch the person himself. A young woman asked a mother no longer there if she is proud of her family.
Live coverage of somber ceremonies memorializing the attack victims dominated television networks on Sunday, the climax of two weeks of attention paid to the historical marker. Newspapers published special sections and websites offered their own content — Yahoo even observing a digital moment of silence.
The television coverage was centered on the annual memorial service at New York's World Trade Center. CNN kept a timeline, occasionally flashing mileposts of what happened 10 years ago at their precise moments: as former President George W. Bush read a letter from Abraham Lincoln to the mother of five men killed in the Civil War, the screen noted that exactly 10 years ago Bush's chief of staff was whispering to his boss that "America is under attack."
"The images still shock, the heartbreak still hurts," CNN's Anderson Cooper said as the network showed pictures from 2001.
Sunday's coverage offered dozens of heart-rending moments, perhaps none more so than when Peter Negron, 21, recalled his father Pete, a project manager for environmental issues for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, who died at the World Trade Center. He noted that he tried to teach his brother, aged 2 when their father died, things like throwing a baseball that dad had showed him. He regretted that his father wasn't there to teach him how to drive, or ask a girl out on a date.
Tom Brokaw, who anchored NBC News' coverage 10 years ago and worked as a commentator with Brian Williams on Sunday, briefly struggled for composure after watching a red-eyed Paul Simon sing "The Sounds of Silence."
"Music is such a critical part of these kinds of ceremonies," he said. "It evokes memories, speaks to us in a way that our everyday language cannot."
Most of the networks covered the beginning of the reading of names of World Trade Center victims by family members, but cut away for other things, including ceremonies where planes hit that day at the Pentagon and Shanksville, Pa.
That made for some discordant moments, such as when ABC's George Stephanopoulos asked Robin Roberts to describe what the screen already had shown.
"Can you just give us a sense of what it is like where the names are being read?" Stephanopoulos asked.
"I'm trying to keep my voice down," Roberts replied. "Everyone is being very respectful in listening to the names being read."
Fox introduced a reporter by injecting an odd sense of competition, saying he had been the first to report that the towers had fallen down — a picture seen live by millions 10 years ago.
Perhaps most powerfully, CBS News stuck with the list of names longer than its rivals, each reader ending with an often heartbreaking personal tribute. Still, the network ended its three-hour coverage without even reaching the halfway point through the alphabetical list.
"It takes a very long time to read 3,000 names," CBS' Scott Pelley said. "It's a reminder of the enormity of what happened."
New York affiliates of the broadcast networks, as has been their tradition, stuck with the readings after network coverage went off the air. Fox and CNN ran lists of victims' names on the bottom of their screens throughout the morning.
The ceremonies gave way to the opening weekend of NFL football, where the anniversary was marked in stadiums across the country. "Taps" was played from Shanksville and Arlington National Cemetery and shown on videoboards in different stadiums.
The New York Mets held a pregame ceremony honoring first responders before Sunday night's home game. A giant flag was unfurled, covering most of the outfield at Citifield, and the stadium lights dimmed for a moment of silence.
The Associated Press provided live video from the memorial service. It also produced a running moment to moment timeline, contrasting what was happening Sunday to what was happening in those moments 10 years earlier.
The New York Times published a 40-page special section, "The Reckoning," on Sunday, with a cover picture of the reflecting pool at ground zero. An interactive package with the same name includes a graphic tally of the cost of 9/11 to the United States, an estimated $3.3 trillion. The Times is also collecting comments about where people were on that day and how they feel now.
A web package put together by The Wall Street Journal contained graphics showing how lower Manhattan around ground zero has become a more residential community. Cameras from different vantage points give online visitors views of rebuilding at the World Trade Center.
Yahoo halted service on its website for a minute at 8:46 a.m. ET, 10 years after the first plane hit the North Tower, a digital moment of silence. Facebook added ways for users to dedicate profile photos and status updates to 9/11 victims. Google's home site had a black ribbon and the phrase "Remembering September 11th."
YouTube started a specific 9/11 channel, asking viewers to submit videos with their thoughts.
Advertisers in special newspaper sections tailored their messages to the occasion. The New York Daily News' 80-page special section contained memorial ads from Macy's, the utility Con Edison, Emblem Health, Key Food, the New York Jets and the Eye Bank of New York. Some tried to do business: The Bradford Exchange offered commemorative plaques, pendants and sculptures for sale.
Ryan Nakashima in Los Angeles contributed to this report.