Video shows moment US students caught 9/11 attack on film and fled their own building

‘It looked like an airplane crashed into the building!’ NYU student shouts in disturbing footage of the attack on the World Trade Center

Nathan Place
New York
Friday 08 September 2023 22:12 BST
9/11 terror attack captured by NYU student Caroline Dries

Americans who were still in school on 11 September, 2001 remember the moment they learned the country was under attack. For some, that moment was memorialised on video.

In 2001, a video camera was not something everyone had on their phone, so footage of these experiences is not as common as it would be today. But for those few students who brought camcorders to school that day, their shock has been preserved in history.

One such video was filmed by Caroline Dries, who was a student at New York University at the time. In 2011, Ms Dries told CNN she grabbed the camera after hearing the sound of the first plane crashing into the World Trade Center. When her video begins, black smoke is already billowing out of the north tower.

“A bomb just went off in the World Trade Center,” she can be heard saying. “It’s unbelievable!”

Ms Dries’ roommate can be heard frantically trying to understand what happened.

“It looked like an airplane crashed into the building!” she says.

“Thank God it wasn’t terrorists, though,” Ms Dries replies.

As the nation learned later, it was terrorists. Al Qaeda extremists had hijacked planes to deliberately crash into the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and an unknown third target, killing almost 3,000 people. As Ms Dries filmed, the attack was still unfolding.

“What is that falling?” Ms Dries’ roommate can be heard saying, with horror rising in her voice. “Is that a person?!”

Minutes later, an enormous fireball explodes in the second tower, and Ms Dries and her roommate begin screaming. The second plane had struck.

“Oh my God!” they both shout repeatedly.

Later the two students witness the collapse of the first tower, as well as the resulting dust cloud that chases fleeing pedestrians down the street. It’s all on video, along with their screams.

Meanwhile, at a high school in Virginia, another student with another video camera caught the moment a classroom full of teenagers learned the horrifying news.

At the beginning of the video, posted on TikTok, the students can be seen cheerfully goofing off and playing for the camera as a classmate films them.

Then a newscaster’s voice can be heard from a TV in the corner.

“At about 8:45 Eastern Time, a plane crashed into the foremost of those towers that are the World Trade Center,” the broadcaster says nervously. “The Pentagon is being evacuated as we speak now.”

A slow pan of the room shows all the teens’ eyes focused on the TV, their faces grim and unsmiling.

“Oh my God,” one student can be heard saying.

Another buries his face in his hands.

On TikTok, users commented with horror at the students’ experience.

“Imagine being in that kind of shock,” one wrote. “I’d be devastated.”

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