Remembering 9/11: We Weren’t Checking Our Phones Every Two Minutes

By Jack Limpert

Brian Lamb, the founder and long-time head of C-SPAN, did more to change how the country sees Washington than any other media figure of the last 50 years. At age 70, he recently stepped back from running the public affairs network he founded and did a wonderful Q and A look back with Adrienne LaFrance for the Nieman Journalism Lab.

In the interview, Brian admitted that in 1999 he didn’t  pay any attention to the Internet. But now, he says,  “I’m totally hooked into the Internet. I have an iPad. I don’t watch that much television, but I have the iPad to call up facts that I want to know about anything from a musician to a political figure. It’s absolute magic.”

Back then we also weren’t checking our little phones every few minutes.

On September 11, 2001, Brian and I, along with Washingtonian writer Chuck Conconi, had breakfast at the Mayflower Hotel on DC’s Connecticut Avenue. When we got there at 8:30, another dozen journalists were in the dining room—Al Hunt, Bill Kristol, and others.

We had a nice breakfast  and about 9:45 we left, stopping to talk with some of the other journalists and then heading back to our offices. When I got to the Washingtonian’s office, two blocks away, the  entire magazine staff was sitting silently in the publisher’s office, staring uncomprehendingly at the TV.

At 8:46, an hour earlier, American Airlines Flight 11 had flown into the North Tower of the World Trade Center. Seventeen minutes later United Flight 175 hit the South Tower and at 9:38  American Airlines Flight 77 hit the west side of the Pentagon.

While all that was happening, some of Washington’s best-connected journalists were enjoying breakfast and had no idea.

Twelve years ago—all our little phones and a lot of the digital revolution were still to come.

First posted on July 19, 2013

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