“The devastating attacks against the United States have left the world in a state of numbed disbelief”, ran the first line of the South China Morning Post leader on September 12, 2001. It was the day after the world held its collective breath as two airliners smashed into the twin towers of the World Trade Center and another ploughed into the Pentagon.
The Post devoted 10 broadsheet pages to coverage of the attacks.
“Thousands feared dead … World Trade Center demolished … Pentagon Ablaze” declared the strap over a front-page headline: “America’s nightmare”.
“Two planes crashed into the twin 110-storey World Trade Center towers in New York, both of which later collapsed. Shortly afterwards, explosions in Washington rocked the Pentagon and the State Department, spreading fear across the nation. The Pentagon blast also turned out to be the result of a plane crash,” the story continued.
Pages two and three carried the headline, “The world watches as horror unfolds”, with images showing the north tower ablaze, a plane closing in on the south tower, and later the south tower collapsing.
A down-page story from the Post’s correspondent noted that Hong Kong officials were considering evacuating Chief Secretary Donald Tsang Yam-kuen from a hotel in central Washington, where he was staying following a 10am meeting with Vice-President Dick Cheney, having flown out of New York for the capital at 7.10am.
Images of office workers amid the devastation, one plunging from a tower, dominated the pages while a picture of shocked New Yorkers was juxtaposed against Palestinians in a Beirut refugee camp celebrating the attacks.
Under the headline “Bin Laden issued warning three weeks ago, says editor” Abdel Bari Atwan, editor of the London-based Al-Quds Al-Arabi newspaper, said Islamic fundamentalists led by Osama bin Laden were “almost certainly” behind the attacks. “We received information that he planned very, very big attacks against American interests.
“We received several warnings like this. We did not take it so seriously, preferring to see what would happen before reporting it.”
The Post’s leader writer noted, “President George W. Bush promised that the US ‘will hunt down and punish those responsible for these cowardly acts’, but gave no indication that he knows where to find them.” It took more than a decade, but find bin Laden they did.