ITN news presenter Kirsty Young was interviewing her husband, businessman Nick Jones, live on air when the second of the World Trade Center’s twin towers collapsed in a cloud of dust and rubble.
The news presenter was on her way to work when Jones, who was on business in New York, called her on her mobile to tell her that a plane had crashed into the 110-storey skyscraper in the heart of Manhattan’s business center.
"Once I knew he was all right I told him to get off the line and to phone me back after 10 minutes so I could call the newsdesk," said Young. "When Nick got back to me I asked him to do a phono and ran into the newsroom with my mobile still in my hand."
Young interviewed her husband at just after 2.2opm and was speaking to him when the second tower collapsed as a result of the impact of the Boeing jets.
"I had been worried because we saw the first tower collapse and I didn’t know where he was," said Young.
"Then we got through to him again and while he was speaking the second tower collapsed behind him. He was really calm and coherent. I think, like the rest of us, the adrenalin was getting him through."
In an e-mail to staff, ITN’s chief executive, Stewart Purvis said the tragedy "may turn out to be the most extraordinary news story of the first decade of the 21st century".
"When I joined ITN nearly 30 years ago I never envisaged a day when we would show live a plane crashing into a building as we did yesterday," he said. "The story has only begun and there will be many challenges ahead."
Richard Tait, editor-in-chief of ITN, said that Tuesday, the day of the terrorist attacks, was "an unpreced-ented day in British and world TV".
"The significance of the story is such that it’s like having an outside broadcast of Pearl Harbor," said Tait.
"Then, people had to wait for the newspapers to see pictures, but this time it was on air for the whole world to see."
ITN correspondents already in the US were James Mates, who reported on the tragedy for ITV News, and David Smith for Channel 4 News.
The BBC and ITN were hoping to fly out more journalists. Roger Mosey, the BBC’s head of TV news, said covering the tragedy had involved one of "the biggest deployments of resources" BBC News had faced. "It’s a global story," added Mosey, who said the corporation was also sending more reporters to the Middle East.
Tait said that the mood in the newsroom was one of "extremely serious and sombre".
"There was a professional focus on getting it right," said Tait.
"But journalists are human beings and I don’t think people ever lost sight of the fact that we were watching mass murder."
By Julie Tomlin