The night Sandra Sully watched history change

I'll never forget the night Sandra Sully told me a plane had struck one of the towers of the World Trade Centre.

I’ll never forget the night Sandra Sully told me a plane had struck one of the towers of the World Trade Centre.

I was sitting up late working at my computer (as I am ten years later) and the first reports sounded like a terrible accident had taken place. Early reports were sketchy, but it sounded like a light plane may have hit the building. Smoke was streaming from the side of the building.

I’d always remembered seeing the towers in movies. Jessica Lange was carried up it by Dino De Laurentiis’ King Kong. Godspell had staged a song and dance number on the roof. The Wiz had a lavish number on the plaza. Homer Simpson had tried to take a pee in them.

I discussed the news with my housemate who was getting ready for bed.  How could such an accident have taken place? Had an aggrieved pilot committed suicide? It was all rather terrible, but it seemed so far away in the craziness that is America. I went back to my work.

I think the next time I checked in a second plane had hit. This time it had been caught on camera and was being replayed. It was no light plane, it was a passenger jet. Fireballs exploded. I dropped everything and so did my housemate. What I watched unfold was a night we’ll never forget.

Sandra Sully stayed on air through an extended TEN Late News talking us through the devastating and inexplicable events. Ever the professional, she kept relaying the facts as they came to hand. I have no idea how she remained so composed through it all. At home I was ringing friends late at night trying to say “Are you seeing this?” I also had a friend living in New York. I had no idea where her office was in relation to the WTC.

I remember seeing the NBC Today Show staying on the air to cover it all. Katie Couric, Matt Lauer… city on fire.

Then a report came in that the Pentagon had been hit. A fortress of American strength. What was happening to the world?

Watching the towers tumble was like something out of a movie. Godzilla without Godzilla. I stayed up for about 4 hours watching it all. I don’t remember if I learned of the crash in Pennsylvania that night….

In the days that followed (when Ansett went under too), everybody just stayed home. Theatre shows, parties, cinemas and community events struggled to attract crowds. Nobody was in the mood for gatherings.

Australian networks had blanket coverage for several days from New York. I remember Ray Martin describing the scene.

Amazingly, I later came across a 2002 New York City calendar I must have bought that month. On the front cover is a picture of the twin towers standing tall. I have kept it sealed in its plastic wrapper ever since, because it’s sadly something that never came to pass.

Ten years later Sandra Sully is still reading me the late night news. Yesterday she also got married in Sydney.

But I will never forget the night we watched history change together.


54 Responses

  1. I was watching The West Wing too when they did a scrawl on the bottom of the screen saying a plane had crashed into one of the two towers in New York. I thought it must have been a sight-seeing flight or something minor so I didn’t think much of it. After the west wing finished it went to live coverage and it never stopped. Still chills me to this day seeing the second plane fly into the other tower before my eyes. Even ten years on it’s a memory burned into my mind forever.

  2. I was doing a uni assignment with Ten Late News on in the background. Everyone had gone to bed however as it became apparent the scale of this disaster I woke everyone up and we watched as the events unfolded. This is truly one of the first “Where were you when…” moments for Gen Y.

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