The events of the day were unlike anything the world had ever seen. Most can recall exactly where they were and what they were doing when they learned of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Many films and books have been written, but one story remains untold: the story of those in power, in their own words. This special is the inside story of the people whose job it was to make decisions that would affect the lives and safety of the nation, and to protect the United States from further attack. 9/11: DAY THAT CHANGED THE WORLD is a Smithsonian Channel original documentary that features exclusive interviews with Laura Bush, Dick and Lynne Cheney, Rudy Giuliani, Donald Rumsfeld, Andrew Card, Richard Clarke and other key decision-makers. Narrated by award-winning film and television actor Martin Sheen, it premieres Monday, September 5 at 8 p.m. ET/PT.
Former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani will host the evening of 9-11 programming on Smithsonian Channel providing insight into the artifacts that he donated to the National Museum of American History and giving his perspective on the 10th anniversary of the attacks.
9/11: DAY THAT CHANGED THE WORLD, spanning from dawn to midnight on September 11, 2001, goes behind the scenes to show how the events of the day developed in the airplanes, offices, bunkers, and military headquarters where the President, advisors, security personnel and military were trying to piece together what was happening, who was attacking, and what might happen next.
It uses no actors and no recreations. Instead, the decision makers tell their story, hour-by-hour, and their words are woven with real-time audio, recordings from flight control centers, and archival footage shot on the day itself – including on Air Force One.
For President George W. Bush, the day started with an early morning run in Sarasota, Florida before a routine visit to an elementary school there. As he entered the school, he was alerted that a plane had crashed into one of the World Trade Center towers. A few minutes later, the President’s Chief of Staff, Andrew Card, got word that a second plane had struck the other tower. After deliberating for a moment about whether or not to interrupt the President, Card knew he had no choice.
“I walked up to the President and I leaned over and I whispered into his right ear, ‘A second plane hit the second tower. America is under attack.’ That’s all I said to him. And then I stood back from him so that he couldn’t ask me a question…President Bush sat and continued to listen to the children, but his eyes had a far away look in them. He was staring. I remember he was staring, but I was focused on really getting out of his way and letting the words sink in.”
Former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld was in his office at the Pentagon that morning. “When the second plane hit, it obviously was no longer an accident. It was an attack on New York and the United States of America.” He had no idea that another hijacked plane was headed his way – and that soon the Pentagon too would be in flames.
In New York, Deputy Mayor Joe Lhota was the first person to inform Mayor Rudy Giuliani that a plane had hit the World Trade Center. Following the impact of the second plane, the city’s emergency teams were scrambling to understand the scale of the crisis. The Mayor and Lhota arrived on the scene at what would come to be called Ground Zero, and what they saw was unlike anything they could have ever imagined.
Mayor Giuliani said, “When we got out of the car and Joe said ‘This is really terrible, it’s awful.’ He said there are people jumping out of the towers…(the) moment of watching that was a complete change in feeling. I mean I went from treating this as an emergency that was within the scope of our experience to, this is beyond the scope of our experience, this is much worse. It’s off the charts and we don’t have a plan for this.”
In addition to hearing from the political leaders, 9/11: DAY THAT CHANGED THE WORLD talks to others with powerful firsthand accounts of the day. Among them:
• Colonel Mark Tillman, Captain of Air Force One, whose job was to get the President airborne and out of harm’s way
• Debra Loewer, the head of the White House situation room, who was standing in for National Security Advisor Condoleeza Rice on the President’s Florida trip
• Ben Sliney, National Operations Manager for the Federal Aviation Administration who, on his first day on the job made the decision to ground over 5000 commercial planes that were in the air
• Colonel Tim Duffy, Air National Guard Pilot, who was tasked with the unprecedented order to shoot down any commercial airliner deemed a threat
• Cofer Black, the CIA’s Counter-Terrorism Chief, who had warned U.S. military brass that a terrorist attack was imminent
• Ann Compton, ABC News reporter, who was aboard Air Force One and covered the movements of President Bush from Florida to Mississippi to Offutt Air Force Base, Nebraska and back to Washington
• Brian Stafford, Director of the Secret Service, who was responsible for keeping the nation’s leaders safe
9/11: DAY THAT CHANGED THE WORLD can be accessed on multiple platforms at no charge beginning September 5. iTunes is offering the entire documentary for free. The program will also be available at SmithsonianChannel.com as well as on Smithsonian Channel’s iPhone and Android apps.
9/11: DAY THAT CHANGED THE WORLD is produced by Brook Lapping Productions for Smithsonian Channel in association with ITV. Executive Producers are Brian Lapping and Kate Botting. The Director is Leslie Woodhead and Producer is Talya Tibbon. Executive Producers for Smithsonian Channel are David Royle and Charles Poe.
Immediately following 9/11: DAY THAT CHANGED THE WORLD is the premiere of 9/11: STORIES IN FRAGMENTS at 10 p.m. ET/PT. The film tells the heart-rending stories behind the iconic objects in the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of American History’s 9-11 collection. Among them are a phone used in the last calls between a husband and his wife; the nametag of a hero; a briefcase found in a pile of rubble at Ground Zero, undamaged. All are witnesses to history, and the film shows how the National Museum of American History’s curators chose them to represent one of the most infamous periods in American history.