1st Plane Hits WTC 1 at 8:46 AM on 9/11/2001

- More Naudet video is collected below the slideshow and frame guide -

Naudet "9/11" DVD Plane Crash Slideshow
1st WTC Attack ::: Flight 11 North Tower Impact

Go to frame (+1):

Technical notes: Frame rate has been doubled to 59.940 fps (frames per second) upon application of bob doubler video filter (in VirtualDub 1.9.5), which removed the two fields' interlace lines. Video was first converted from "9/11: The Filmmakers' Commemorative Edition" (Paramount, 2002) DVD mpeg2 format to Huffyuv encoded (lossless) avi standard using VirtualDub Mpeg2. Clip starts in the DVD at vrt 24:27, frame 43978. Additional details: Run time is 47.2 seconds. Final video data rate is 162068 kbps. Feel free to double-check these images using a nearly identical slideshow from a different DVD of the same film. NOTE: Several versions/airings of the shot are in a video playlist below.

The video was filmed using a Sony PD150 (source). See a detailed review of the equipment, which mentions the Naudet shot. The camera was later donated to the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of American History, added as part of the September 11: Bearing Witness to History exhibition opened September 11, 2002 and closed Jan. 2006.

UPDATE 2017: CNN has purchased the rights to all the Naudet footage and released the film for the 2016 anniversary with an introduction by Dennis Leary... and the same cut frames during the 2nd hit (Like the 10-year version and all others). Apparently CNN plans to digitize the master tapes and release the original footage in full (according to Variety, "CNN Marks 15th Anniversary of 9/11 With Deal for Landmark Documentary, Digital Archive Plan" Sept. 8, 2016). Some new footage was released -- for example Gedeon's North Tower collapse audio -- at an interactive CNN website.

Frame Number Guide & Analysis  (See the video below)
0000-0003 Pfeifer Battalion 1 Chief Joseph Pfeifer has just told viewers that in response to a call reporting an "odor of gas" (in the street), "We checked the area with meters. It was kind of routine... and, um, pretty simple." Note that the "simple" gas leak never brought up the fact that three firefighters were killed on the same day, June 17, in a propane explosion in Queens, in what was known as the Fathers' Day disaster.
0004-0500 Meter Check In the first 2 seconds of these frames, firefighter/co-producer James Hanlon is heard in a voice over: "It was 8:46 in the morning." TV versions included another line: "That's when this stopped even resembling a normal day." The scene is set at the corner of Church and Lispenard streets (see map), 7 blocks away from the Engine 7/Ladder 1 firehouse at 100 Duane St. where the Naudet brothers have been filming since May (see Charlie Rose, March 2002 below). Pfeifer holds the TIF8800 Combustible Gas Detector, which seems to detect nothing in the grate below. If the meter were an 8800A model instead of an 8800, we would have been able to see any possible results on the LED display. Instead, we hear a solid beeping tone going higher and lower. Then Pfeifer tells us in a voice over: "And then we heard a plane come over. And in Manhattan, you don't hear planes too often, especially loud ones."
0529-0550 Civilian? We get a decent look at the bearded bystander in a t-shirt and cargo pants. Who is this? The anonymous caller who reported the odor?
0660-0760 Waiting Pfeifer stands up. He has finished talking in his voice over. Camera operator Jules Naudet raises the view from the street a bit to keep Pfeifer in frame. The plane noise has not become apparent yet. There's an unknown firefighter, not from Duane St. According to Firehouse magazine (April 2002), three units responded to the gas leak call - Duane Street, Engine 6 from Beekman Street and Ladder 8 from North Moore Street (Where are they in the video?) He stands left of center screen, looking into the grate below. Pfeifer does the same. A man in a blue shirt begins to cross the street (Church St.) in the crosswalk behind them (see map).
0770-0975 Plane audio Jet engines are heard, getting louder. Nobody has reacted yet. (Note that audio is correctly synched with the firefighter's voice at the end of the clip ::: see video below.)
0980-1020 Plane overhead Airplane noise has nearly reached its peak. Bearded man looks up first. Then the firefighter. Pfeifer looks in the direction of the camera. [Note that TV versions also added slow motion and an audio loop as the plane flew overhead and the fireman center screen looked up. See videos below.]
1042-1082 Pfeifer looks up The camera has not acknowledged the plane by moving. At about 1050 (3.6 seconds before impact) the airplane noise is dampened by the AT&T building. Thanks, Achimspok for your study, "The last 1.2 seconds of Flight AA11."
1083-1122 Slow pan left Slight camera motion centers frame on the unnamed firefighter.
1123-1164 Steady camera Camera operator Jules Naudet pauses while Firefighter turns toward the camera, and around to see the plane. Three seconds to impact.
1165-1242 Pan left Plane is first seen at 1200. Camera motion stops with the towers center frame, divided by an imaginary vertical line (exactly centered). The conspiracy theory is that the first plane shot was staged. As in: the entire "documentary" was propaganda.

His response was uncanny: just in time, and position, to record the impact of the plane as it plunged into the north face of the north tower." (David Friend, Watching the World Change: The Stories Behind the Images of 9/11, Picador, New York, 2006, p. 3.)

Also in the David Friend book we find another - one of 3 in existence - images of "American Flight 11" on its last journey. See the photos below. The photographer is Wolfgang Staehle, whose webcam was set up to take photographs every 4 seconds for an art project... from his Williamsburg, Brooklyn view at 475 Kent Ave. (address according to researcher YougeneDebs).

The third shot of "AA11" comes from a videocamera held by Czech immigrant Pavel Hlava. He would also catch the second plane. Video links: 1. & 2.

Staehle plane closeup

Cropped from image captured by Wolfgang Staehle

Staehle plane
Staehle plane hit
Staehle WTC explosion

1260-1280 "Earthquake 1" See also frames 2048-2187. The brick face of the building on the close left and the Tribeca Grand on the right (shadows, corner windows) seem to move independently of the scene. Is this an MPEG compression issue or evidence of video fakery? (See Simon Shack's disinfo site.) Focus on the glitch in a compilation of different versions here.
1281 Impact Flash As with the 2nd plane impact videos, a bright flash occurs. The reason is unclear, but discounting the theories involving pods and missiles leads us to one of two good explanations. One, aluminum in the plane and/or the tower cladding caused a pyrophoric effect... OR it may have been the oxygen tank. "The main crew O2 bottle is in the electrical & equipment room, located under the floor just aft of the nose gear bulkhead." Update: In NIST FOIA release 30 we find a clear version where another detail is observed in the sky: a bird. See video below.
1372-1501 Zoom in Between the impact and the zoom in (at about 1320-1380), we hear "Holy sh!t" from two people simultaneously and two other utterances of "sh!t" moments later. As the explosion erupts, Jules zooms unsteadily. The explosion is heard at the end of the zoom, almost exactly at frame 1500. (Compare the audio to a recording by Ginny Carr, who was attending a business meeting on the 36th floor of One Liberty Plaza, across the street from the WTC. Also hear it from near Park Row, where WNYW FOX5 recorded off-air. A thump is heard before the jet impact (perhaps ground vibration - which travels faster than sound - jolting the camera). Yet another audio recording was made by an FBI informant.
1502-1742 Fireball zoomed The fireball reaches maximum size, center frame. Jules follows it upwards for a moment, as the easterly wind blows it out of the way so we can see the entry hole aflame.
1743-1841 Zoom out After this zoom out Jules appears to step to the right, as the yellow traffic signal moves left.
1856-1986 Crazy zoom As if to make the shot appear more chaotic and unrehearsed, Jules zooms in - out of focus - on the smoke cloud. Then he quickly zooms out again. Compression artifacts are evident in the pixel lines of frames 1902-1940 (see also 1462-73, right side of the frame). At the end of this unprofessional camera operation, we hear Jules say "Yes," likely in response to the question "Did you get that?" Asked by whom, we don't know.
1970-1998 Bird 1 ...crosses the sky from right, flying horizontally just above the Tribeca Grand Hotel (see gif), then is visible in most frames between 2022-2082 flying across the sky at left. UPDATE: What should really be called "bird 1" is seen in 1261-1284, barely perceptible in the DVD version, top right in the blue flying up. (Watch Gamma Press version here or in the playlist below.)
2010-2011 Distortion In what is assumed to be an MPEG compression issue between the original tape and the DVD format, likely due to camera shake, various elements across the entire image shift.
2048-2187 "Earthquake 2" This issue is similar to the Distortion above, yet only the Tribeca Grand is affected. The lines of the building and its shadows shift - particularly the eaves, roof and windows. Also 2233-2234. Focus on the glitch in a compilation of different versions here.
2074, 2140 2157, 2184 White spots ...on the Tribeca Grand at the bottom of the frame. These may be due to the flashing lights of emergency vehicles.
2164-2289 Bird 2 ...enters bottom left. Bird 3 enters at frame 2196, top of the screen. At 2234 we see a wing of Bird 2 "flash" white just as it begins an evasive maneuver to miss Bird 3. (see gif of this exceedingly rare example of a bird flying upside down [others: 1. eagle, 2. goose and 3. hummingbird, the only bird "able" to fly upside down]) From 2245-2265 we see more bird "flashes."
2290-2356 Birds As Bird 3 flies in front of WTC 1, Bird 2 appears to fly down and away, behind the corner of the AT&T Building— but also not behind it (2325-2342). A similar shadowy dot moves in the lower right corner from 2334-2349.
2392-2423 Birds? As if it represents Bird 2 flying back into the frame, a solid white dot passes left across the near corner and east face of the Tribeca Grand. Also, a Bird 4 appears in 2408 flying left (in the white smoke) out from behind the building center screen (250 Church St. [see map]). Briefly from 2423-2427, it is beyond the bottom of the frame, disappearing finally at 2445. The direction the white dot was moving is seemingly followed in 2435-44 by a faint black dot on WTC 1.
2640-2651 Bird? After a zoom on the plane hole, several seconds pass before this final, distorted (or artificial) bird. Compression artifacts are visible as pixel lines in and around the smoke (2648-62; see also 1902-40). One theory is that the birds are technological, for "total situational awareness."
2663-64-. O'Neill Firefighter John O'Neill becomes visible in a quick fade. His voice can be synched with his mouth, which shows the audio interleaving is correct.

1st WTC Plane Crash - Jules Naudet, "9/11"

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DVD Edition (Paramount PHE 8276), released 12 September 2002 (the day after the original TV version - a very different edit - was shown in 142 countries, after its debut on American CBS on 10 March 2002, when it was broadcast between 9 and 11 pm - 9-11, get it ?) Also there was a 2006 airing on UK Channel 4. In the TV showings, Robert DeNiro introduced the film— which had less footage and fewer interviews than the DVD version.

See an interview with the Naudet brothers and James Hanlon in the playlist above. At 7:10 into the interview, Jules describes his experience filming the plane. Later, Jules claims that the FBI learned of the videotape footage and came to the firehouse the evening of 9/11 to acquire the tape [or a copy?] — which the FBI apparently borrowed for 2 days. See 31:50 in the interview. Was a VCR copy made by the FBI, explaining the bad quality full length FOIA-acquired version with "NOT FOR REPRODUCTION, NOT FOR BROADCAST, ©GOLDFISH PICTURES INC." -- emblazoned across the center of the screen? (We see Jules's camera only) Video is last on the playlist above.

Selective list of awards:
(as compiled by Leslie Raphael)

54th Primetime Emmy Awards, September 2002 : Award for Outstanding Sound Mixing for Non-Fiction Programming (Single or Multi-Camera); Award for Outstanding Non-Fiction Special (Informational).
German Television Awards, October 2002 : GTA Award for Best International Program.
62nd Annual Peabody Awards, April 2003.
Satellite Awards, January 2003 : Award for Special Humanitarian DVD.
55th Writers Guild of America Awards, March 2003 : WGA Award (TV) for Documentary — Current Events.
Foundation for Moral Courage — Jan Karski Documentary Film Award 2002.

Also nominated for :
Cinema Audio Society, USA, March 2003 : CAS Award for Outstanding Sound Mixing for Television * Non-Fiction, Variety or Music Series or Specials.
54th Primetime Emmy Awards, September 2002 : Award for Outstanding Picture Editing for Non-Fiction Programming (Single or Multi-Camera); Award for Outstanding Cinematography for Non-Fiction Programming (Single or Multi-Camera); Award for Outstanding Sound Editing for Non-Fiction Programming (Single or Multi-Camera).
Television Critics Association Awards, July 2002 : TCA Award for Outstanding Achievement in Movies, Mini-Series and Specials.
Rory Peck Trust Awards, October 2002 : The Rory Peck Award for Hard News (finalist); Sony International Impact Award.

The Peck Awards (Sony Award held at Sony France in Paris on 9 September 2002, the Hard News and Features Awards at Channel 4 in London on 18 September) attracted 43 entrants, including 9/11 film by Evan Fairbanks and by another French film-maker, Étienne Sauret, whose "WTC : The First 24 Hours" is listed in the Naudet film with a credit for additional footage (above one for Luc Courchesne Images — a third French film-maker), as well as "Plane Hitting World Trade Center Tower," attributed to Goldfish Pictures Inc./(APTN/Gamma USA). "Well, this is just THE shot, isn't it ?" ... "It's in focus, in the middle of the frame ... and remains the single most key shot" ... "his reactions were amazing" : but despite comments like that, the panel of judges * Mark Damazer (BBC), Sue Brooks (APTN), Chris Elliott (The Guardian), Mike Inglis (ITN) and Nick Toksvig (Sky) * gave the Hard News Award to Najibullah Quaraishi's film of the SAS in Afghanistan, which also won the Sony Award. How did "THE shot" manage to come away with nothing ? Did the judges have misgivings they kept to themselves ?

UPDATE 2017 because in 2016 CNN bought the rights to the "9/11" TV film (Goldfish Pictures for a while), the movie "9/11: The Filmmakers' Commemorative Edition" (Paramount for a while), and all footage from both cameras: Jules, who shot the plane (and inside the North Tower with FDNY Ladder 1 Battalion Chief Pfeifer in the command post... and when the South Tower collapsed), and Gédéon, who shot the 2nd plane hit and the Flight 175 engine. One can only assume that means that CNN owns perhaps the most iconic shot of our time. I wonder if they'll edit out the "Holy shit!" right after impact. Also, I wonder how bad they'll be about censoring the 1st plane hit from YouTube. I've already had a copy of the 1st hit taken down from YouTube for too-shocking violence. (As with one of my 2nd hit videos, Hezarkhani.) compiled by Leslie Raphael

Gédéon Naudet (Radio Times, 7-13 September 2002) : "... from a moral point of view we have not exploited these images ... we couldn't sell the footage to anyone who might exploit it. People were proposing insane amounts of money ; in one case we were offered $2.5 million." And yet we know that the footage of Flight 11 hitting the North Tower was sold within hours to the French agency Gamma Press, from whom CNN and other broadcasters had to get it ; and we also know that when Vanity Fair Editor Graydon Carter (who knew the Naudets' father) brokered the deal — via Jim Wiatt of the William Morris Agency, the Naudets' own — by which CBS President Leslie Moonves acquired the full Naudet film (the brothers were interviewed in the March 2002 edition of the magazine), Moonves "would not say how much the network paid for the material. He said there was no bidding war with other networks." But we can presume the film was not provided free of charge, and money did change hands : so much for the "moral point of view" — selling their film to a media giant like CBS, whose own Susan Zirinsky said "Nobody is out for anything other than showing a remarkable body of work."

So the Naudets got nothing, and CBS got nothing ? I don't think so. From a report by Bridget Byrne, February 6 2002 : "The Naudets, who will be paid to work on the special, retain rights to their footage for international distribution, home video and DVD." (That report continues "They will also be completing their original three-hour documentary on the New York firefighters" : obviously another aborted idea.) It would be interesting to know who offered $2.5 million for the film : if it was someone who could not afford that kind of money, why would the offer be taken seriously ? It could not have been a TV broadcaster : we have Moonves' word that "there was no bidding war."

Then we were told (e.g., in France-Amérique, Dossier 22-29 March 2002) that when the Naudets got home on the evening of 9/11, two FBI agents were waiting for them, after hearing about them from the Fire Department, and demanded their footage, allowing them to keep one copy of the impact shot — presumably how it was shown, for the first time, on Univision later that night — perhaps after first being sold to Gamma, allegedly on their father's advice, and doubtless using his connections and experience in the photojournalism business. "Business" being the operative word, rather more credibly than "moral." How and when the brothers got their film back from the FBI is another of the untold stories of 9/11 — if we can believe the confiscation story in the first place. - Since 9 Feb. 2008


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