“Chosen to be Witness”: The Exceptionalism of 9/11

  • Øyvind Vågnes


On September 7, 2003, The New York Times reported that a videotape of the terror attacks on the World Trade Center two years earlier had recently surfaced. A Czech immigrant construction worker, Pavel Hlava, had intended to make a video postcard to send home, and had accidentally filmed both planes crashing into the towers from the passenger seat of an SUV in Brooklyn. Almost two weeks had passed that September before Hlava realized that he had actually captured the first plane on video, and

[e]ven then, Mr. Hlava, who speaks almost no English, did not realize that he had some of the rarest footage collected of the World Trade Center disaster. His is the only videotape known to have recorded both planes on impact, and only the second image of any kind showing the first strike. The tape — a kind of accidentally haunting artifact—has surfaced publicly only now, on the eve of the second anniversary of the attacks, after following the most tortuous and improbable of paths, from an insular circle of Czech-American working-class friends and drinking buddies.1


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Copyright information

© Dana Heller 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  • Øyvind Vågnes

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