On the morning of 9/11 I stepped off the train from CT in Grand Central at approximately the time the first plane was flown into the World Trade Center, though I wasn't aware of the incident until I got to my office about 15 minutes later. Like the rest of the world, I was riveted to my TV, watching coverage of what we later learned was a terrorist attack, not an accident.
What many of us don't realize, is that something somewhat similar happened in NYC more than a half century before. Not a terrorist attack, but an accident, as a B-25 bomber flew into the side of the Empire State Building.
Long story short, on July 28, 1945, Lt. Col. William Smith was piloting a B-25 Bomber through New York City on his way to Newark when he got lost in the fog. Rather than land at LaGuardia, Smith continued his flight, and at 9:49 a.m. the plane crashed into the 79th floor of the north side of the Empire State Building. Fourteen people, including Smith and his crew, were killed in the incident.
Like 9/11, there were those who jumped to their death as they sought to escape the wreckage and fire. Two women were in an elevator that plunged 75 floors, and one of them survived.
All three major radio networks (CBS, NBC, and Mutual) covered the event, including interviews with witnesses and survivors.
My friend Joe Richman, producer of NPR's "Radio Diaries" put an amazing audio piece together two years ago, which includes interviews with some of the survivors, and some amazing archival audio material, including a recording of the actual incident as it occurred, as recorded by a dictation machine. Listen in to The Day A Bomber Hit The Empire State Building.
This was an amazing event with some incredible radio coverage. Coming out of World War II, radio news had grown up and was well prepared to cover events of this stature. Good radio is described as that which paints a "word picture." Not only did the radio of the time paint some amazing word pictures as reporters described the situation, but the Radio Diaries piece that Joe and his team put together gives you a great sense of what went on.
Listen to this piece, and I'm convinced you'll be fascinated.