11 Sept 2023
A mysterious 9/11 video that captured the attacks emerged on YouTube 20 years after the atrocity.
In the years that followed the attack on September 11, 2001, thousands of pictures and videos circulated - snapshots that preserved the horrors of a morning when almost 3,000 people lost their lives. For two decades, the world became accustomed to seeing what was believed to be an exhausted list of pictures and footage from the day.
However, an astonishingly clear clip, which is almost nine minutes long, was shared on YouTube by Kevin Westley decades later, the first new moving image capturing the attack from a never-before-seen perspective. It shows a previously unseen angle of the second plane hitting the World Trade Center's South Tower, seventeen minutes after the North Tower was hit by American Airlines flight 11.
Captured from a boat, the camera looks up towards the towers from amongst a crowd of shocked onlookers. Initially, the video focuses on the fire in the north tower, zooming on sheets of paper dancing in the updraught of the flames. Two minutes into the video, the camera pans around in time to capture the second plane flying in over the water before colliding with the South Tower. Screams of horror can be heard from the crowd in the background.
In a post alongside the video, uploader Kevin Westley explained: “I posted this video in the 2000s but accidentally left it private for until now. I noticed the video was private and made it public.” In the long post, Kevin shared his thoughts about witnessing the awful attack on 9/11 and spoke poignantly of his subsequent tour of duty in the 2003 Iraq war as an aircraft commander flying combat missions.
“In an instant, I saw 2,763 die. 25,000 injured,” he said, recalling the horror of the New York attacks. As I was caught in the dust cloud of the collapse, I remember seeing a picture of a child (and am now wondering) if I now was looking at an orphan."
Speaking of his time serving during the Iraq war, declared by the US in the wake of the 9/11 attacks, Kevin said: “When I flew the rotator into Iraq, the guy that sat next to me died in a mortar attack the next day. That was my welcome to Iraq. He added: “Some days my sleep was interrupted by incoming mortar fire, with one-time gravel spraying against my tent woke me up."
“As one of the officers, I would often draw funerary detail. As they wheeled the coffins into or out of the aircraft, I would wonder did they have a wife? Kids? Have their parents been notified yet?” After talking through his feelings in the form of notes from a service he led, Kevin draws a heartbreaking conclusion: “In war a piece of our soul is lost on the battlefield and it can never be replaced in this life.”
Among hundreds of iconic images that emerged in the wake of the atrocity, many told deeply personal stories and captured the hearts of the world in the decades that followed. One such person was firefighter Mike Kehoe heading up the North Tower of the World Trade Center as workers fled summed up the bravery of all the 9/11 crews on that terrible day.
More than twenty years have nearly passed since he was photographed on the front page of the Mirror. Many people were shocked to learn that somehow Mike survived. But in total, 343 of his colleagues lost their lives following the terrorist attacks. Several friends have also since died as a result of cancer they contracted from working in the ash of both towers.
Asked in 2021 why he still wanted to be a fireman after all he has been through he said simply: “I just love it.” Mike added quietly: “I’ve never been back to Ground Zero since my time there in the weeks after 9/11."
Mike can remember as he climbed the stairs people wishing them well. He said: “Our job was to get up to the floor where the plane hit to reach people there. That’s what we were determined to do. As we were going up people kept saying, ‘good luck’, ‘lots of luck’. But I must admit that even at that stage, I was frightened. Then over the radio [my boss] Roy said everybody evacuate the building now.
“We all turned around immediately. It was frightening. We managed to get into the lobby, it was like Beirut, there was rubble everywhere.” All six of Mike’s Engine 28 company – Roy Chelsen, Brian Becker, Frank Compagna, Bob Salvador, Jim Ippollito and Mike – managed to escape.