The now famous video sequence of the first airliner striking the World Trade Centre last Tuesday was shot by a young French film maker doing a documentary on the New York fire department.
Jules Naudet, 27, was filming a routine gas leak in the street, a few blocks from the twin towers, when he heard the hijacked American Airlines Boeing 767 pass overhead. He lifted his camera and, almost by accident, filmed the only footage of the first of the New York kamikaze attacks.
The camera jerks as it pans from the fireman, who twists around in shock to watch the plane crash into the north tower. The collision with the second tower, 18 minutes, was filmed by television crews from different angles.
Jules and his brother, Gédéon, joined firemen who raced to the burning buildings and – for the next four hours – filmed the rescue attempts, and the collapse of the towers. Their footage was seized by the FBI last week but has now been released and will form the basis of a documentary to be shown soon on the American network CBS.
The brothers, who have won prizes for their previous documentaries filmed in New York, will give all proceeds from the programme to families of firemen killed when the towers crumbled. They have also given the fire department the right to vet their film: many of the firemen shown in the early sequences lost their lives a few minutes later.
Both brothers were close to the towers when they collapsed. One escaped, with firemen, through an underground tunnel. The other sought refuge under a fire truck.
Their father, Jean Jacques Naudet, said yesterday: "I don't think the FBI seized their film. They just wanted to understand what had happened.
"No image of firemen at work will be used without their approval."Reuse content