You Weren’t Stupid, Mr. Brown: CNN’s Brief Shining Moment on 9/11


01-10-19 07:19:00,

Editor’s Note: This article by distinguished 9/11 scholar Dr. Graeme MacQueen was originally published on September 11, 2019, on Republished here with permission from both publisher and author, the article is MacQueen’s latest contribution to his 13 years of historical research into how witnesses and onlookers perceived — and attempted to explain — the destruction of the World Trade Center’s Twin Towers and Building 7 on September 11, 2001.

Other works in MacQueen’s oeuvre of historical 9/11 research include: 118 Witnesses: The Firefighters’ Testimony to Explosions in the Twin Towers; Waiting for Seven: WTC 7 Collapse Warnings in the FDNY Oral Histories; Did the Earth Shake Before the South Tower Hit the Ground?; Eyewitness Evidence of the Twin Towers’ Explosive Destruction; and Foreknowledge of Building 7’s Collapse.

Aaron Brown, news anchor during most of CNN’s coverage on September 11, 2001, was interviewed on the 15th anniversary of the event (see “What it was like to anchor the news on 9/11,” at 3:05). He said in that interview that he had felt “profoundly stupid” when he was reporting the destruction of the first Tower (the South Tower) on that morning.

“I…I will tell you…that a million things had been running through my mind about what might happen. About the effect of a jet plane hitting people above where the impact was, what might be going on in those buildings. And it just never occurred to me that they’d come down. And I thought…it’s the only time I thought, maybe you just don’t have what it takes to do a story like this. Because it just had never occurred to me.” (CNN, Sept. 11, 2016, interviewer Brian Stelter)

Is it not remarkable that Brown was made to feel stupid, and to feel inadequate as a news anchor, during the precise moments of his coverage of that day when his senses and his mind were fully engaged and on the right track? 

Shortly after 9:59 a.m. Brown had been standing on a roof in New York City about 30 blocks from the World Trade Center. He was looking directly at the South Tower as it was destroyed.

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