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06th Sep 2022

Only American not on earth during 9/11 attacks recalls watching South Tower collapse from space

Jack Peat

‘It was like seeing a wound in the side of your country’ 

Video footage capturing the moment an astronaut watched in horror from space as the South Tower collapsed during the 9/11 terrorist attack in New York City has been released on TikTok.

Frank Culbertson was the only American off the planet during the attacks on 11th September 2001, having been inside the International Space Station with two Russian cosmonauts at the time, around 250 miles (400km) above Earth.

Looking down from the space station, Culbertson saw smoke billowing from New York coming from the second of the Twin Towers.

Recalling the moment in a 2014 documentary called Astronauts: Houston We Have a Problem, he says: “I raced around and found a video camera and a window facing in the right direction.

“The weather was perfectly clear that day. I could easily see New York City – a big black column of smoke coming out of the city, and as I zoomed in with the video camera, I could see this big grey blob enveloping southern Manhattan.

“What we were seeing was the second tower coming down.”

@rayhurley4September 11th 2001 filmed from the International Space Station by Astronaut Frank Lee Culbertson Jr.♬ Teardrop – Massive Attack

Culbertson was the sole American astronaut on the third mission to man the ISS, which was still under construction at the time.

He only found out what was going on when he called Earth for a routine medical check-up, when he was told: “Frank, we’re not having a very good day down here.”

In the clip, we also hear audio of Frank in the space station, telling Mission Control: “We can see New York City, and the smoke from the fires.

He described it as “like seeing a wound in the side of your country” in the documentary.

The horrific event will be remembered next week, marking 21 years since the tragedy.

Hijackers sent by Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden brought down four planes on 9/11, two crashing into the World Trade Center, one into the Pentagon and one onto a field in Shanksville, Pa, after brave passengers fought to wrest control before it could reach the White House or US Capitol.

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