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History Plans 9/11 Special With First-Person Videos

History, in a special using first-person video, will air 102 Minutes That Changed America on the seventh anniversary of the terrorist attacks, officials said Monday. 

The special will run Sept. 11 at 9 p.m. without commercial interruption. The program incorporates footage from more than 100 individual sources, carefully pieced together in chronological order as a kind of permanent historical archive for future generations to see.

This special presentation will be followed by I-Witness TO 9/11, an 18-minute documentary short featuring interviews with some of the people who contributed their 9/11 footage to this project. This piece provides context and background to some of the most harrowing footage from the perspective of the people who recorded it.

102 Minutes That Changed America presents amateur and professional footage, woven together without narration or commentary, to provide the viewer with an immersive and emotional experience. The documentary records and captures that historical morning as it happened and the way it was experienced—from people’s initial bewilderment that a plane could slam into these iconic skyscrapers on such a clear sunny day to the sudden, awful recognition that America was under attack.

Over the 24 months it took to research 102 Minutes That Changed America, the production team screened more than 500 hours worth of professional and amateur videotape, as well as more than 30 hours of audio recordings from New York City Fire Department and New York City Police Department radio transmissions and 911 calls.

Efforts to gather footage included placing a video short on YouTube, hanging flyers around the Battery Park City neighborhood, and sending out e-mails to the World Trade Center Residents Group list serve. At least 10 hours of footage was submitted to the producers based on word-of-mouth about the project within the New York City production community.

Among the videographers are two New York University seniors in a high-rise dormitory just blocks from the World Trade Center. Immediately after the first plane’s impact, these young women picked up their camera and begin recording the smoking North Tower. Their confusion turns into panic when they observe objects plummeting from the tower windows. Then, in their viewfinder, the second plane impacts the South Tower. Terrified, the girls must decide whether to stay on the 32nd floor or flee with their friends to the ground floor.

Meanwhile, six blocks south, another camera follows firefighters trudging toward the flaming towers, as radio communications from the 72nd floor call for reinforcements to help put out the inferno above. Civilians on the street, many of whom are just emerging from their subway commute, wonder at first why the building is on fire. Bystanders who suspect terrorism wonder if another attack is imminent, and whether it will strike them next.