The following responses, adapted from this Askreddit thread, shed light on how a national tragedy is received and interpreted worldwide. Truly insightful.
It was live on TV on channels which normally had news so channels like BBC, ITV, Channel 4.
I remember my friend called me after the first plane hit and said "Dude, someone flew a plane into a tower in America. What a dick!" or something along those lines. I don't think people thought it was anything sinister until the second plane hit. I certainly didn't, I presumed a pilot was drunk or something happened with the plane's guidance systems and it was an accident more than anything else.
When the second plane hit my dad ran out of his office with a very serious look on his face and just gawped at the TV frowning. That's when I knew that this was real and this wasn't an accident but something coordinated and pre-meditated.
The news reports were trying to keep it calm. Credit to the BBC for staying cool and trying to focus on facts such as where the plane came from, where it was going, who was on board, how much fuel was left, that sorta thing. The number of fatalities was of course mentioned from the initial crashes because passengers couldn't have survived and manifests showed how many souls were on board.
Well at the time I worked in a large Australian supermarket, the largest in the country. As the event was unfolding, the coverage was just unprecedented. The supermarket that day was completely empty. I have never seen anything like it before or after. The staff stood glued to TV screens. A phrase that stuck with me was one of the commentators saying "well one thing is for certain, life as we know it is over." Which was very true. At first the coverage was unsure of what was going on, but when the realization that t was an act of terror sunk in, it was more of a feeling of disbelief. It took a little while for the media coverage to turn from the immediate events to looking forward and analyzing the actual impact of the events.
I'm an American but I would like to relay the experience I had in France in 2001 because it's important. I was on leave from the US Navy on 9/11 and in the Normandy region of France enjoying a leisurely Christmas with my father, touring all of the WWII invasion sites around Normandy. (To address all the questions I'm getting about Christmas in September - due to limitations in my leave schedule and my Dad being in Europe at that time, we decided to get together and celebrate then because visiting during actual Christmas and for months after was going to be an impossibility. Sorry for the confusion.) We were in a restaurant on the coast having moules frites when the owner came over and told me in French that something terrible had happened in New York. I knew immediately it was a terrorist attack when she told me that two planes had hit both towers...I stood up in the middle of the small restaurant and was having a borderline panic attack. My father is ex-military and he knew what I was feeling...I needed to be back with my unit, to be with my buddies and to be ready. I had the only panic attack of my life right there in the middle of that coastal French restaurant.
Something amazing started to happen. The 8 or 10 people, local French couples and families, all stopped what they were doing and came over to comfort us. Two women were crying. I started crying. One of the local girls grabbed me and hugged me and I sobbed like I hadn't done in years...certainly not in front of other people, and absolutely not in front of strangers. This seemed like it lasted forever, but was probably only a few seconds.
Everyone moved their tables to be in some semblance of a circle, and we all finished our meals in relative silence. The husband and wife restaurant owners broke out a case of Burgundy on the house and we all started drinking together. Eventually, about 8 of us walked down to the beach and told stories of France, America, what it was like in the Normandy region during and after WWII, and what we were going to do next. Bottle after bottle of Burgundy was consumed, and Dad and I eventually just passed out on the beach and slept until morning.
24/7, it was on every TV channel for weeks. I was 11 at the time and was just upset that I was missing my telenovelas.
Woke up to the radio station mentioning all about it. Arrived to my grade 8 class, and my teacher let us watch 20 minutes of it after the National Anthem. Then he turned it off. When we asked why we couldn't watch anymore, he responded with "You will watch that footage for the rest of your life. Terrible things have happened and there are no answers. Let's move on and check in at lunch time."
All major German TV channels stopped any planned program for hours and reported live from the scene. Think like a non stop news show. One German news anchor (channel was RTL) got an award later on I think for managing to be composed and keeping people updated on whats going on for literally hours.
The event stayed in the news for the next weeks, but normal programming was resumed the next day outside of news shows.
I was 10 and out with my parents and I remember my uncle calling my dad and telling him about it. My dad was shocked and I didn't get why at the time. Every single channel covered it. Even the cartoon channels had news on, which I was mad about. Little did I know that that day changed the world and the world's views about Islam and the middle east, especially Saudi Arabia. I still experience prejudice from people and governments. Getting visas is still hard and I get "randomly" selected for security checks almost everytime I fly. My country was on America's side and thought it was horrible. It created a chain-reaction of terrorists killing innocent people in the name of Islam. Which goes against absolutely all teachings in Islam.
All I heard was; two towers were hit in USA by planes and are completely destroyed. It was all over the news but I don't think they were showing it again and again and again.
I'm from Chile, and while our local press did continuous coverage, it wasn't with any specific focus on anything, save for the occasional 'we found a Chilean in New York who can tell us about what's happening on the ground'.
The surreal part for me was that our cable TV started replacing almost every international channel with whatever US media they could get their hands on. Watching MTV Latino turn into a live, untranslated feed of a New York FOX affiliate was incredibly strange, and it has never happened again, for any global event. Same with Fox TV and Sony Latin, which mostly broadcast sitcoms and movies. The attack was literally in every channel.
The way these US channels were reporting the news was so unknown to us, that by 2 or 3 pm I really felt like there was a chance of some ICBMs being launched... it was scary on a global level.
They made a really big deal about it in Sweden. School had just stopped, as I walked by the cafeteria on my way home I notice the cafetiere lady crying hysterically and teachers trying to comfort her. Didn't think much about it and went straight home. Barely reached to open the door before my dad yells at me to come to the TV-set quickly. He was watching the CNN coverage of the attack and he quickly explained what had happened and that the first tower had just fallen. Shortly after that the second tower went down.
The day after it happened our teacher rolled in the TV-set and put on CNN for the entire class to watch. She spoke a bit about the loss of life, how and why it happened and what the consequences might be. At the end of that class we held a minute of silence. Later that same day our principle called the entire school into the gathering hall and there she held a speech similar to the one our teacher held a few hours earlier and then we had another minute of silence.
We're about 12 hours time difference from the US. I was at home. family was glued to the TV till early in the morning. I was in the next room flitting back and forth. I heard my father yell when the first tower fell.
In Iran, there were candlelight vigils all over the country. There was a moment of silence at a soccer game as well. The way I remember, they focused mostly on the loss of life; innocent people clearly never deserve a fate like that.
It was the only news covered for first 24 hours. It was still the most important news for next few weeks and with the war with Afghanistan a lot of it was covered.
I was in standard 9. I used to study around 7 PM everyday. I remember vividly the day and staring in awe at the screen. I couldn't believe what i was seeing. I kept watching TV that whole night.
It was top story for a few days like in most European countries. The main reaction was shocked disbelief. At one point , we saw on the TV that a lot of smoke covered the city for some reason. It took our reporters (and us) a full 15 minutes to realize that the towers had actually fallen!
I remember little Russian me coming home from school (7th grade) and seeing my mom tearing up in front of the TV. She said - Look what's going on in the United States. I couldn't understand what she was talking about, because I was refusing to believe that the "movie" playing on the screen was an actual footage... Everyone I knew was deeply scared, especially taking into consideration that Russia itself had recently suffered from major terrorist attacks. It felt like the world had changed forever and nowhere was safe anymore.
These responses give greater perspective on the nature of the 9/11 attacks, and on the nature of humanity as a whole.