102 Minutes that Changed America

From around 1990 until 2005 I was more or less out of touch with events happening in the world, and spent most of my time in meditation centres, forest monasteries etc., engaged in intensive meditation and taking prolonged silent retreats.

During that time I read no newspapers, had no radio or TV, and didn’t talk with anyone about those sorts of things. Basically I knew nothing about what was going on in the outside world, or the news that kept everyone else so engaged.

One of the very few things that did get through during that time was the happenings of 9/11/2001. I was living in the Island Hermitage in southern Sri Lanka at the time and I remember the news came like this:

Our Head Monk in the monastery was a late sleeper and I was an early riser. Many days I would be up and doing walking meditation and would see him walk past my kuti on his way to bed. That would be around 3.30 in the morning.

One day he didn’t walk past but very excitedly came up waving a floppy disk and talking about something that had happened in New York. He came in and had managed to download about 4 or 5 of the images of the plane hitting the 2nd tower, and could somehow flip through them on a viewer so we saw a primitive and jerky video of the awful event.

Now when you’ve been living under a stone for a decade and the first thing you see of the outside world again is such an unqualified disaster in which thousands of innocent people are murdered through the delusion of a few fanatics it really hits home. I was certainly ready to dive back under the stone again, and after a few more graphic photos and reports over the coming days I did just that.

People Look on as the Disaster Unfolds
People Look on as the Disaster Unfolds


I started to creep out again around 2005 after being struck down by TB the previous year, which meant I no longer had the strength for intensive anything. But it wasn’t until I came to Malaysia in 2007 and suddenly found myself in an air-conditioned, broadband-connected environment that I really made contact again.

I was still fascinated about that terrible day and its repercussions and I found many documentaries online about those startling events. Many of the online videos are, of course, about the various kinds of conspiracy theories. It seems to me that many of the claims in these videos cannot easily be brushed aside, but I don’t want to go into that now.

A couple of years ago a new documentary appeared on the Net, which was shown on the anniversary of the event by the History Channel in 2008. This is the most powerful documentary I have seen about the events.

It has no narrative and is basically compiled from mainly amateur footage shot as the events were unfolding in live-time. It runs for 102 minutes from the hit on the 1st Tower till just after the collapse of both towers and makes for one of the most memorable and compelling records of the day.

The soundtrack has also been compiled from recordings of events as they were unfolding, with dramatic sound-effects added in. As some of what is being said in the confusion is hard to make out it is well worthwhile listening on headphones if you have the opportunity.

I am embedding the documentary below in two parts, and in the coming weeks I will also show a few videos examining the repercussions the event has had around the world.

Be warned that the documentary necessarily contains material of a graphic and disturbing nature.


Part One starts just after the first plane crashes into the WTC. At that point no one knows what has happened or why, a few minutes later the 2nd plane hits and the awful truth begins to dawn on people.

Part Two records the collapse of the two towers and the utter mayhem that followed as people in the vicinity are starved of air by the disintegration of thousands of tons of concrete. We also see the initial disbelief turn to anger at what had happened, which is perhaps just as frightening as the events themselves, and has had repercussions to this day.

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