500,000 pager messages from 9/11 published
Personal messages sent on the day of the attacks have been posted online
Thursday 26 November 2009
Thet started the day with bagels, coffee, and a boring commute. Then a plane crashed into the World Trade Centre. Several terrifying hours later, thousands were dead, Manhattan had become a disaster zone, and life would never be quite the same.
An archive containing the contents of more than half a million pager messages sent on 11 September 2001 was published yesterday by the internet site Wikileaks. It provided an uncensored and sometimes deeply moving first-hand account of the attacks on New York and the Pentagon.
The messages were sent by a mixture of frantic emergency personnel, security officials, and people trapped inside the Twin Towers, many of whom used now-obsolete pagers to contact loved ones after the local mobile phone network jammed.
"Please call me I need to know where you are," reads one sent to an office worker around 10am, just over an hour after the attack began. "Don't leave the building. One of the trade towers just fell. Please be careful. Love you – Tiffany," reads another.
They were published by Wikileaks in "real-time" yesterday, starting from 8am and proceeding for the next 24 hours, in an effort to tell the story of 9/11 as it happened. The archive, of 570,000 messages, will in future be stored online.
Alongside computer-generated alerts and news updates from organisations like Bloomberg are tragic personal farewells. "Honey, I want to tell you how much I love you," reads one highlighted by Wikileaks. Immediately following it, the same pager received a financial alert: "Dollar tumbles V Euro and Yen."
The sheer volume of the archive means that it promises to provide an endless resource for conspiracy theorists. Many hope it will provide a "smoking gun" that will prove the theory that US intelligence agencies had advance knowledge of the attacks, which left 3,000 dead.
That remains to be seen. For the first few hours of the day, the transcripts simply show New Yorkers preparing for another day. "Good morning sexy man." reads one. "My boss isn't coming in. Yippee" reads another.
At 8.47am, one minute after the first plane hit, comes the first non-automated reference to the attack. "Someone just told me there was an explosion at wtc... A plane crashed thru the twin towers. Real bad... BR" it reads.
Soon, pager networks are full of panicked eyewitness messages such as "The World Trade Centre has just blown up, we have seen the explosion outside our window."
By the afternoon, some New Yorkers are commenting that "things are getting worse... fear is rampant" others saying: "Bush calls crashes apparent terrorist attack."
No one knows exactly how the messages were obtained. But many reports yesterday speculated that they came from a source inside US intelligence services.
Wikileaks, an anonymous whistleblowing organisation which operates from Sweden, said: "The archive is a completely objective record of the defining moment of our time. We hope that its revelation will lead to a more nuanced understanding of the event and its tragic consequences."
Personal alerts: How New York reacted by text
* Not sure if you will get this. I've been trying to call. We've been ordered to evacuate our building. I'm going home and I'm fine. love k
* Are you coming home early? I'm really freaked
* Are you OK? Mom and Dad said you had to be evacuated. If you have a two-way pager and can page me back – please do. LOVE YOU!!!!!
* Please tell us you drove. Dad just called me about what is going on in the world, very scary!
* Dear Jason, I need for you to let me know if you are okay. I can't reach you by phone so please email me. I Love You, Momn Don't let Wu get on the plane today, highjacked planes just crashed into the White House and Pentagon.
* Pete is ok, he can't find his brother who works in the world financial centre next to the trade centre. Your mom wants you to go home. Call me
* Huns, both twin towers have collapsed due to the crashes and a car bomb... This is horrible!
* My dad's office (aka. Pentagon) just had an explosion. Still have yet to hear from him. My mom is frantic and I've had tons of people in my office!
* Please tell me you're ok... I'm sure you are but I need to hear it from you.
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