I understand the reasoning behind MSNBC’s rebroadcasting the live NBC coverage of six years ago. The crass rationale is that CNN did it (albeit via streaming) last year, and they had to wait until this year to copycat. Less crass is that after an orgy of replays, the footage was locked away for years, and the chaotic and war-fogged reporting was superseded by a more coherent narrative to suit what followed. Enough time has passed, perhaps, to recall the confusion.
That they repeated that repeat after dark makes less sense. The broken verisimilitude, for some odd reason, makes it feel crass. Or perhaps it exposes the innate crassness of the re-enactment.
It was a Jack Ruby moment rather than a JFK one, in one of Denis Leary’s rare original lines. Diana’s death was more JFK, heard at a second remove, and even that doesn’t quite satisfy the need for some diversity across a common experience. Ask most people in Britain when they heard about Diana, and it’ll be the same reply: when they woke up that Sunday morning.
And yet away from that sunlit New York weekday, most people were doing the same thing: watching television, grotesquely compelling by design. I wasn’t: my train left London just before 2 p.m., and I switched on my radio as the first reports came through to the BBC. Three hours and 250 miles later, a pile of rush-printed copies of my local paper were selling quickly in the station concourse. The front page was dominated by a photo of the second plane hitting. It was upscaled, pixellated, unsuited to print.
Although I had ample chance in the hours that followed to associate pictures with what I’d heard described, it brought a strange disjunction that remains with me, as if watching a radio drama re-made for television.