'War Movie' Unfolds on Television News

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_____Closings, Evacuations_____
Nationwide Closures
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_____Pentagon Request_____
The Pentagon has asked that all Navy and Marine personnel who were in the building at the time of the attack to call in to a toll-free number so that the services can put together a roster.
That number is 1-877-663-6772.
By Howard Kurtz
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, September 11, 2001; 3:47 PM

The pictures are awful, the anchors grave, the television coverage careening from one disaster to the next.

"Things will not again be the same in the United States of America," said Brit Hume of Fox News.

The smoke, the fire, the planes, the horrifying sight of the World Trade Center's South Tower disappearing from the skyline, the explosion at the Pentagon television captured it all as a nation watched, transfixed.

Reporters were restrained after the first explosion at New York's 110-story trade center, raising but not speculating about whether a terrorist attack was involved.

By the time the second plane hit the other twin tower, it was clear this was no accident.

Tom Brokaw spoke of "the physical threat and now the psychological threat" of terrorism.

Andrea Roane of Washington's WUSA-TV said: "This is a horrible sight, and a scary, very frightening day."

"Washington, D.C., the nation's capital, is extraordinarily tense," said CNN's Frank Sesno, "and clearly taking steps as if it is virtually under siege."

The facts came trickling in, each more stunning than the last: Reports of a hijacked plane, two hijacked planes, confirmation that a Boston to L.A. flight had indeed been seized and flown into the World Trade Center. The White House evacuated, the Capitol and the Treasury evacuated, air traffic shut down.

"FBI rescue operations and other operations are in chaos," said NBC's Andrea Mitchell.

And then, with journalists and viewers alike reeling how could this possibly have happened, without warning more tragedy: The towers fell. "The building has collapsed. That tower just came down," said NBC's Matt Lauer.

And then, on this day of split-screen tragedy, back to Washington. "Senior officials in Washington tell us that a car bomb has exploded outside the State Department," said ABC's Peter Jennings. (That ultimately turned out not to be true).

Within minutes, more unfathomable pictures: The North Tower of the trade center collapsing, just wiping the symbol of New York commerce from the skyline. "One can scarcely comprehend the loss of life of all the people who were not lucky enough to scramble out of the building," an MSNBC anchor said.

Then, CNN with unconfirmed reports of a 747 down in Pennsylvania; MSNBC confirming the crash, 80 miles outside of Pittsburgh.

It was a war movie, a seemingly far-fetched war movie, unfolding on our television screens.

© 2001 The Washington Post Company