The terrorist attacks that brought down the World Trade Center, damaged The Pentagon, and downed U.A. Flight 93 in Shanksville, Penn. are unique in several ways. They were arguably the turning point in American Warfare, turning our defensive procedures to a larger, more focused scale for our Homeland Security measures. It turned our full attention offensively to the Middle East, which has occupied our military efforts over the last decade. They have also had the distinction of being the first major U.S. tragedy to hit during the information age, making it one of the better documented historical events in our country’s existence. Using much of the video footage, audio recordings, and transcribed conversations between the individuals involved with the tragedy, The Discovery Channel has put together a new documentary tentatively called The 9/11 Tapes: Chaos in the Sky, a minute to minute recount of the morning of September 11 2001 through the eyes of the military and air traffic control units that dealt with the hijackings first hand.
The majority of Chaos in the Sky is told through the eyes of the soldiers stationed at Otis Air National Guard Base in Cape Cod as well as air traffic controllers in New York City and Boston. The documentary is done in a minute to minute basis, covering the beginning of the morning at both Otis and JFK airport in Boston. When the initial hijack occurs, the recorded conversations in both Otis and JFK reveal the general feeling on all fronts was that they had a hostage situation on their hands and no high amounts of alarm were scene, being that there was a procedure in place for such things. This of course changes when the hijackers crashed American Airlines 11 into the World Trade Center’s North Tower. From there the documentary becomes a chaotic and somewhat frightening look at the nature of our vulnerability to such an attack and the actions that were taken by the officials who were in charge of handling it.
Though several specials about the attacks have been made in the last year (marking the ten year anniversary of the attack), Chaos in the Sky does have a very unique angle to it. This is mainly stems from how calculated and official the tone of the documentary is and the use of the official recordings from Otis. While most of the pieces put out about the attacks last year where focused on the civilian and public service aspects, this special focuses almost completely on the air traffic controllers and military pretense during the attack. This gives the documentary a very war-like tone, with much of the dialog becoming aerodynamic jargon and military code. There is also a difference in message from most specials about 9/11, with a large portion of the time spent pointing out the shortcomings of the official bodies involved, including the failure of the Federal Aviation Administration (F.A.A.) to inform North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) of the hijacked plane’s initial redirection in a standard amount of time, NORAD’s failure to scramble jets immediately, and the unorganized fashion the jets were eventually scrambled in that prevented them from arriving on the scene sooner.
It is the job of historians to record the events of the past in as accurate and unbiased way possible. Now, a decade after what is arguably one the first major world changing event for Generation Y, we can begin to look at not only what was done to our country, but also what could have been done in order to control it at the time. Chaos in the Sky is a great look at the events of the morning at 9/11 not just for it’s preciseness, but for its new view on the subject and is a must see for history and military buffs.
The special premieres TONIGHT, February 12 at 9 p.m.