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Item 245: Breaking News

How an online community responded on 9/11.


The following transcript is the live reaction of a New York-based Internet community to the events of September 11, 2001. Like the e-mails people sent, the taped phone messages, and the "Missing" posters pasted downtown, it's an unmediated artifact of what happened that day. The difference is, it's a communal conversation.

The community in question is ECHO (a.k.a. East Coast Hangout), one of the earliest online discussion boards, founded in 1990. On September 11, ECHO founder Stacy Horn made the first post at 8:47 a.m.: A PLANE JUST HIT THE WORLD TRADE CENTER. What followed were weeks of live posting as ECHO members—most of them New Yorkers—responded to events as they occurred.

This excerpt runs from 8:47 until 10:46, and it consists of a series of comments on a post titled "Item 245: Breaking News." The posts can be very disturbing to read, since they so vividly replicate the raw, chaotic state of mind of New Yorkers trying to wrestle with the events of the day. But they also capture with moving precision the way people worked together, even in the midst of great confusion, to trade information and offer support in the moments when no one knew what was going to happen next.

11-SEP-01 8:47 Stacy Horn

11-SEP-01 8:49 Stacy Horn
Oh god. I'm shaking. A plane just went by my window, it was flying WAY too low, and I was thinking, "How ironic," I wrote about this in my book, and it crashed.

Oh God, people are dead now. Oh god.

11-SEP-01 8:50 Cathy
Where did you hear? I have the Today show on. No bulletin.

11-SEP-01 8:51 Stacy Horn
I SAW IT. It just happened, too soon for radio and TV.

11-SEP-01 8:51 Cathy
There's the bulletin!!! Oh God!

11-SEP-01 8:51 Stacy Horn
I'm freaking out. I called 911 and it was busy.

11-SEP-01 8:55 Stacy Horn
I didn't see the hit, I saw the plane go by (TOO LOW) and heard the crash which was AWFUL. Then I stood up and saw the big GAPING hole (I can see the World Trade from where I am.)

11-SEP-01 8:56 just charlene
There is a huge fucking hole in the side of the WTC!

11-SEP-01 8:56 starla
what kind of plane was it?

11-SEP-01 8:57 Ellen
I think I heard the crash all the way up here. Oh god.

11-SEP-01 8:57 Stacy Horn
Jet. A big jet.

11-SEP-01 8:57 Pez
It's on AM 820. NPR's FM signal has been knocked out and an eyewitness is now speaking.

Apparently it was an American Airlines jet. A real commercial airplane.

11-SEP-01 8:57 just charlene
someone guessed that it was a 737.

11-SEP-01 8:57 Cathy
The plane is in the building!!!! I can't believe this!!!

11-SEP-01 8:57 Pez
What do you think happened to the PLANE?? Where is it????

11-SEP-01 8:58 Luna grumble
Huge fire 10 or so stories from the top--North side of tower #1, the one with the antenna.

11-SEP-01 8:58 Pez
Stuck inside the building????

11-SEP-01 8:58 Cathy

11-SEP-01 8:58 Ellen
Watching on NY1 now. Those poor people.

11-SEP-01 8:59 Chalres

11-SEP-01 8:59 Pez
I can't see the photos -- does it seem possible anyone survived the crash?

11-SEP-01 9:00 Luna grumble
Whoa! Just turned on the TV! That is one huge hole!


11-SEP-01 9:00 Chalres
My housemate's brother just called his family to tell them he escaped okay. He works just a few floors below.

11-SEP-01 9:01 Pez
He was there?????????

Holy fuck.

11-SEP-01 9:01 Pez
What did he have to say? Anything?

11-SEP-01 9:01 Ellen
Thank god, Charles.

11-SEP-01 9:03 Pez
A reporter is now saying there was a second explosion in the second building??

11-SEP-01 9:04 Luna grumble
Holy SHIT!!! Explosion in the other tower!!!

11-SEP-01 9:04 Stacy Horn

11-SEP-01 9:04 Pez
The 1010WINS anchor is saying "Did you see ANOTHER plane crash into the second building?" WHAT?

11-SEP-01 9:05 Kevin
A second plane hit the other building.

11-SEP-01 9:05 Pez
I had the mistaken idea that it was still early morning (I'm oblivious) but I now realize there must be thousands of people at work in there right now. I can't believe this.

11-SEP-01 9:05 Chalres
Kevin: WHAT???

11-SEP-01 9:06 Kevin
Two planes, one targeted each tower. They feel they were loaded with bombs.

11-SEP-01 9:06 Chalres
I'm going down to another office where they have the TV on.

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