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Friday Flashback: What was on air in Australia when 9/11 attacks happened?

September 11 2001 was a night of Rove Live, The West Wing & CSI before Sandra Sully broke news to Australia....

Everybody remembers when they heard about 9/11 attacks.

I was still up late when it looked like a light plane had crashed into the World Trade Center.

I turned on the TV where Sandra Sully was famously live to air. I alerted my housemate and we began watching, but I couldn’t raise a friend on the phone to tune in too.

As the horror unfolded, I kept watching into the early hours of the morning on the NBC Today show, which was broadcasting Live from New York.

But what else was on air for Australian viewers that night?

Courtesy of history site TelevisionAU we can see normal programming involved CSI, All Saints, Rove Live, Stingers, The Bill (these had already concluded) with Lateline, The West Wing, Talking Footy at around the same time as the attacks.

Nightline with Jim Waley was on air from 11:25pm and Seven Late News screened from 11:40pm.

I have no idea if late night programmes Star Trek: The Next Generation, Big Sky or Letterman proceeded that night, but I’m guessing not…

By the next morning, Australian networks had wall to wall coverage from New York, which pretty much continued for several days.

26 Responses

  1. I was the same I just finished watching Rove Live no doubt then I always watched Sandra Sully after with the news I was in bed my partner at the time still in the lounge when we all started to get the news from Sandra it wasn’t until she mentioned the second plane that we all new what had happened and went and told my partner I always remember he didn’t feel the gravity of the situation and didn’t turn over what he was watching. But pretty soon no one could ignore it and we’ll after all these years it’s so vividly shocking and I found it hard to cope foe weeks after.

  2. I watched Sandra every night…late news…it was more regular back then…
    I was giving a 1 month old his last bottle….(not mine)
    Sandra broke the news and they took pictures from CNN….but Sandra stayed at the desk…and for most of the night…which many do not seem to be remembering…a total marathon….she was amazing!…No scripts…she was flying by the seat of her pants….an incredible feat of journalism….I stayed the distance with her….watching the whole US day unfolding,….
    I watch a closeup of the 2nd plane coming in and smashing into the other building….I can never, unsee that….it still traumatizes me to see a plane flying near a building….That woman deserves some sort of award….something tangible to hold.

  3. I remember getting on the train to go to work the morning after it happened and had this feeling that the world had suddenly changed. That it had become more dangerous and things would never be the same. All around me there were people listening to their walkmans listening to the ongoing coverage then getting to work and was glued to the coverage all day

  4. Somehow i missed Sandra on the Ten late news that night as i often used to watch it, but i saw it unfolding on NBC Today, which i also often had on in the background. My memory is not as sharp as i thought, i could’ve sworn Bryant Gumble was hosting with Katie Couric that day but i’ve just found Matt Lauer was, Gumble had left the show in 97.

    I think i finally went to bed around 3.30 am but didn’t sleep all that well. When i saw about the Pentagon i wondered if i was going to wake up to news of something just as bad happening in Australia. Because at that stage we didn’t know if these terrorists were just targeting the US or all their allies too. Certainly one of those moments in life we always remember what we were doing at the time.

  5. I was 5 years old back at that time and I didn’t watch the rolling coverage of the 911 attacks. My late grandad was at home watching the rolling coverage of the 911 attacks on 7 and he was Really shocked. He saw the footage of the planes that struck the WTC. My father was in the mines and he saw the devastating news on the WTC attacks on GWN.
    Speaking about continuing morning coverage, 9 had morning coverage on Today Show and Morning News. They didn’t screen Humphrey and other US Soap Operas (IIRC). I believe that Channel 10 had Cheez TV and had the usual GMA while the 9/11 attacks were still rolling live.

  6. Firstly, I would have lost a good amount of money betting that West Wing was on TEN, not Nine. But I think that’s what I was watching when it all started and Nine broke into it for sure.

    An untold story is now websites like ABC were initially slammed and made unusable and the ABC quickly converted to a very basic text only news feed.

    I always remember being cranky Star Trek TNG not being it on lol. It definitely did not go on, nor Letterman. They wouldn’t return for a few weeks. Every night for a few weeks was 9/11 coverage.

    I had Foxtel at that stage and actually had the next day off work so I stayed up all night watching. Always regretted not recording some of it because there was plenty of stuff that was never shown again.

  7. I can answer that question. I used to tape Letterman back in those days & it wasn’t on. I taped the West Wing too & they cut into it with a news break. I went to bed pretty early back then as I was working & didn’t hear about it till the next day when my alarm went off at about 5.00. I was listening half asleep confused as to how a plane could crash into the World Trade Centre as how could you miss it? Then it gradually dawned on me it was done deliberately & was a terrorist attack. I got up & put the TV on & was glued to my TV in shock. I was trying to get ready for work watching the TV & listening to 2DayFM with Wendy Harmer.

  8. My then boyfriend was watching When We Were Kings (Muhammad Ali doco) in the lounge room. Not being keen on that I went to bed to read. I remember him saying that a plane had crashed into the WTC and thinking that was quite unfortunate then went back to my book. A few minutes later he insisted I come to look and we both saw the second plane make contact. We were absolutely stunned! Initially it didn’t register that it was a terrorist attack, but in the back of our minds we knew that planes “accidentally” hitting both towers like that was totally implausible. We fell asleep in front of the TV and weren’t very productive at work the next day. Not that much was done anyway, it was the only topic of conversation and most people who were still watching the TV when it happened were exhausted. I will never forget it.

  9. I was seven when this happened so wasn’t awake when the news was breaking. First I knew about it was the next morning when I got up to watch Cheez TV cartoons and ended up with rolling news coverage. Very sad day.

    1. I can absolutely agree with this. Being 5 at the time and in Kindergarten I remember that when I came home from school the next day the Children’s Cartoons weren’t on the ABC and I was quite annoyed. This is all I remember of this day.

  10. I remember waking up the next morning and hearing on the radio news what had happened, I rushed to the lounge to tell my parents to discover my dad had spent the whole night watching it, I remember grabbing my Walkman for the train ride to work and just found that everyone was chatty sharing whatever they were hearing on whatever they were listening to on their Walkman’s

    It’s quite crazy to think this was before iPhones, apps, social media etc everyone was just in something of a surreal state of “is this/how is it happening”

  11. I got home from work before 11.30pm and turned on the TV to check for TWW because I had set the VHS and 9 tended to stuff TWW around, starting it late or dropping it without warning. I can’t remember for sure but I thought TWW was pulled and 9 had gone to live coverage early.

    I watched for a few hours, mostly 10 and ABC, as some channels were just running US programs but Sandra Sully was amazing. When the 1st building came down one I remember one US presenter in shock just couldn’t comprehend what had happened even though you could clearly see the building collapse.

  12. I happen to be living and working in Manhattan at the time and had only two months earlier moved work locations from 7World Trade Centre (the 3rd tallest of the 7 world trade centre towers) to mid town. I was on the phone when the first tower was hit and the person I was speaking with let out an expletive; in disbelief, we moved to the trading room TVs and watched in stunned silence as the second plane hit. Needless to say we left work early and watched on the news what was happening directly outside. Surreal. Air Force planes above the sky, tanks guarding electricity hubs. People who lived outside of Manhattan struggled to get home as bridge and tunnels were barricaded closed later that day.

  13. I was living in Singapore, watching Ally McBeal….the news ticker tape ran across the bottom when the first plane hit saying more on the news at after Ally McBeal but we switched straight over to BBC and CNN. Free to air news in Singapore wasn’t like we have here – so the cable channels were our viewing for a few days. My wife is from the USA so called home while it was all unfolding……

  14. Prisoner was on foxtel UKTV I recorded it and watched it later they had a crawler across the bottom of the screen I’m pretty sure it said

    Terrorist attacks in US full details on all news channels

  15. I was watching Channel 9. I’m pretty sure that they didn’t break into The West Wing, they waiting until it was finished. I think the attack (not that anyone knew it was an attack at the time) got a mention in the final commercial break in the “Coming up on Nightline” teaser

  16. I think it was wall to wall from the second plane on most networks.
    I remember the night.

    Jim Waley was still on air till 4am Adelaide time when I went to sleep.

    I presume he stayed on till Today show took over coverage.

  17. Thanks for the link back, David. From what I recall, Ten went into continuous coverage from the time Sandra Sully broke the news during the late bulletin, so nothing on Ten for the rest of that night after Ten Late News went as scheduled.

    I understand that ABC broke into “When We Were Kings” to commence its continuous coverage overnight.

    Not sure about Seven or Nine or SBS, though I vaguely recall Nine did not let “The West Wing” finish and started “Nightline” early. But my memory is sketchy there, others may recall more accurately.

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