The fact that modern technology has made it possible for us to transmit video footage of current events across the world is a marvel that we tend to take for granted today. Allowing us to witness incredible events like the falling of the Berlin Wall, man’s first steps on the moon, and major sports in real time has forever changed our view of the world.
For this list, we’ll be looking at some of the strangest, most outrageous and outright shocking things that have been broadcast over the years. As you may be able to imagine, our rules were quite simple. We were looking for news footage that was shot and sent around the world live, as it happened. We disqualified anything that was shot and then disseminated online only, as that may be fodder for a list on another day.
12. Reporter and Camera Man Murdered
On the morning of August 26th, 2015, viewers tuning into WDBJ in Roanoke, Virginia’s morning news telecast were lucky if they’d turned away from their TVs when these horrific events occurred. While Alison Parker interviewed Vicki Gardner about the planned festivities for the 50th anniversary of Smith Mountain Lake’s creation, gunshots fired out.
Once the perpetrator, a disgruntled former employee of the station, had finished his vicious attack, the interviewer and her cameraman, Adam Ward, had suffered fatal wounds. Vicki, the subject of the segment had also been shot but thankfully she survived her injuries after she had a kidney and part of her colon removed. We’re opting not to focus on the identity or motives of the man who took these poor people’s lives and negatively impacted a third person so severely.
11. The O.J. Simpson Car Chase
Today, as we wallow in the wake of American Crime Story’s first season, which focused on O.J. Simpson’s murder trial, it remains difficult sometimes to think back to a time when he was celebrated. Arguably the most famous running back of all time, The Juice, as he was known in some circles, had a hall of fame career, where he broke several records and won the hearts of America. On top of his impressive athletic accomplishments, he’d managed to put together one of the best filmographies any athlete has enjoyed, especially his work in the Naked Gun trilogy.
The way the world saw Simpson was irrevocably changed after the bodies of his ex-wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and her friend, Ron Goldman, were found and O.J. was charged with their murders. Allowed to turn himself in by eleven in the morning on June 17th, 1994, O.J. opted to not appear as promised. The real hoopla began after Robert Kardashian, his friend and lawyer, read a letter, which sounded suicidal, from him at a press conference and the cops and media began to search for the beleaguered star. That afternoon, live footage of a white Bronco containing that distraught star on the lam, leading police cruisers in a slow speed chase was beamed, live, into houses everywhere.
A shocking turn of events, if you were alive and aware at the time it is incredibly likely that you have some kind of memory of where you were when you saw the footage, it was that mind-blowing. The public had arguably never seen a star fall so fast, so quick and in such remarkable, televised fashion.
10. Toppling Saddam Hussein Statue
The war on terror as a whole and the war in Iraq, in particular, is undoubtedly one of the biggest political lightning rods of the last several decades. Politics aside, when coalition forces invaded, as part of The Battle of Baghdad, the speed with which the capital of the Republic of Iraq fell, all the while filmed and telecasted in real time, took many by surprise.
Perhaps the most enduring symbol of the effort came was when a thirty-nine-foot statue of deposed despot, Saddam Hussein was taken down by American soldiers amidst a crowd of Iraqis. After initial destruction attempts by the people, most notably when a weightlifter attempted to wield a sledgehammer and destroy it, were unsuccessful, it was pulled down by an M88 armored vehicle.
A moment that should have been a crowning moment of a people celebrating their dictator’s removal from power soon became controversial due to the actions of single US marine. Prior to the statue’s toppling, American Edward Chin ascended a ladder and placed a US flag over the statue as the crowd immediately went silent. A poor decision as the world wanted to focus on possible Iraqi freedom, not America’s involvement (especially since the invading forces were from multiple countries), an Iraqi flag quickly took its place.
9. Manilla Bus Hostage Crisis
When a disgruntled former Philippine National Police officer attempted to board a bus without paying and was turned away, he revealed he was holding a gun and hijacked the vehicle. Using his new hostages in an attempt to get reinstated as an officer, the perpetrator, a man who’d been accused of mistreating someone and was subsequently fired, claimed he was innocent. There is little question that holding twenty-five people against their will is an incredibly poor way to change the minds of your superiors that you should be in placed in charge of upholding the law.
Almost the entirety of the incident was filmed and broadcast live, even the people on the bus watched since it was equipped with a TV setup. After several hours of protracted negotiations that included several hostages being released, especially children and the elderly, word got to the perp that they were only willing to reopen his case instead of outright reinstate him. Soon after a SWAT team arrived on the scene, upsetting the captor who demanded they leave and then his brother showed up trying to convince him to give up before being removed.
Seeing that his brother was arrested for entering the area without permission while carrying a weapon, he said he’d start killing if his sibling wasn’t released. Following through with his threat, he ultimately killed seven people and severely injured several others. The SWAT team was sent in to take the bus and after an hour of futile attempts, they tossed in two canisters of tear gas, which sent the gunman out, where he was shot in the head by snipers. Imagine turning your TV on to all that.
8. Boston Marathon Bombing
Marathons traditionally are events that provide us with images of people pushing their bodies to their extreme. Sweaty but rejuvenated by their accomplishments, photos of athletes crossing the finish line are snapshots of elation that all of their training and hard work have paid off. Unfortunately because of the two Tsarnaev brothers and their explosives-laden backpacks, the 2013 Boston marathon is memorable for very different and more appalling reasons.
Two explosions went off less than twenty seconds apart from one another, and resulted in over 280 injuries, yet miraculously only took the lives of three people. Two cops and one of the perpetrators would lose their lives in connection to the fugitives’ manhunt in the coming days.
The event has inspired an upcoming film starring Mark Wahlberg, which will undoubtedly focus on the heroism that took place that day. Witnessing bystanders coming to the aid of people who were injured, in some cases severely so, without knowing if the danger had subsided was inspirational.
7. Jet Blue Flight 292 Emergency Landing
When 146 people took to the skies aboard a Jet Blue flight the terror they were ultimately in for could have seemed it was from their worst nightmares. A massive aircraft that suffered a serious malfunction immediately after takeoff, the plane’s pilots quickly realized that the landing gear couldn’t retract.
The pilot, Captain Scott Burke, decided that their best bet for survival was to land at LAX because the long runway would afford him the opportunity to descend slowly. Flying above Los Angeles for more than two hours in order to use up as much fuel as possible, to mitigate the risk of fire, the plane miraculously landed on the tarmac without a single fatality.
An event that worked out far better than most people would have expected, the magnificent performance of the pilot, including using tricks to mainly land on the back wheels, was incredible. As preparations for the landing were made and the ground crew anxiously awaited a possible tragedy, the news was there broadcasting it all. As with the bus incident the passengers on the plane, including actress Taryn Manning, were also watching the coverage from their seats. As regular viewers on our couches, we sat, tensely imagining the terror the passengers must have been feeling as they waited knowing their doom may unfold in mere hours.
6. The L.A. Riots
It would be one hell of an understatement to say that by 1992, the year in which this event took place, the LAPD had a checkered past. Seen by many residents as a racist entity that again and again prosecuted citizens based solely on their race, the anger a large percentage of the population felt had been heating up for years. When footage of Rodney King, an African-American, being tased, struck with batons, again and again, tackled, cuffed and generally beaten down by cops was released, justice was demanded. When all of the men who attacked King were acquitted, LA’s anger finally boiled over with awful results.
Lasting days, a portion of the city’s populace destroyed storefronts, engaged in violent behavior and raged somewhat indiscriminately. Perhaps the most memorable images of the horrific events focused on the awful attack on Reginald Denny. A Caucasian truck driver, he was pulled out of his vehicle while still on the road and beaten so badly he nearly died. Reportedly hurt so bad that his eyeball was dangling from its socket, he was forced to undergo years of rehab to walk and talk. He seems to have been chosen strictly due to his race. An attack that was shot from above by a news helicopter, the image of this poor man covered in blood was horrid but in one of the events only positive moments he was saved by a few bystanders.
The riots resulted in fifty-five deaths, including some doled out by the very police that was so hated and over two thousand injuries. Additionally, more than one thousand buildings suffered damage, costs topped a billion dollars and twelve thousand arrests were made.
5. Fiery Siege Of Waco, Texas
We have to admit it, in our minds there is little in this world that is as fascinating as religious cults. A group of people brought together by fervent beliefs that allow themselves to fall under the influence of a charismatic leader, it is difficult to imagine finding ourselves so utterly dominated in mind and spirit. The story of the Branch Davidians, an offshoot of the Davidian Seventh-day Adventist, that believed Christ’s second coming was around the corner, they sought to prepare for it.
David Koresh, the cult’s leader, as is often the case with these cults, was accused of a variety of crimes. Believing himself to be the final prophet and above the laws of man, he revealed it was his duty to impregnate his followers, evidently with zero regards to whether they were legally of age. Holed up together inside a compound the group cobbled together an expansive arsenal that earned them the attention of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) and soon resulted in tragedy.
After a 51-day standoff between law enforcement and the cult which saw officials camped outside of the Branch Davidian’s Waco, Texas home, a final assault took place. Setting the building ablaze in the process, which included the inhabitants never shooting a bullet despite possessing many, the world watched in awe as the fire spread un-protested. Burning seventy-one people alive, including men, women and children, many viewers saw the deaths as preventable and were aghast that it had come to this.
4. The 2008 Mumbai Attacks
A series of events that took place over four days, the people of Mumbai were the victims of twelve separate attacks, including bombings and gunfire, which forever rocked the city. Resulting in the deaths of 164 and at least 308 people being wounded, the onslaught was planned and carried out by ten members of a profoundly perverted group of so-called Islamic militants.
Holding hostages in multiple locations during the events, some of the most intense images of the events came when the National Security Guards assaulted these places. Saving the lives of hundreds of people, all but one of the attackers was violently killed while survivors fled in a desperate attempt to survive. Additionally, Taj Mahal Palace & Tower saw smoke billowing from its bottom floor as a fire had been set, threatening even further catastrophe if it couldn’t be put out.
Four days of death and destruction, the events, resulting chaos and resilience of the people were recorded live. Locations as varied as hospitals, the harbor, historical sites and even a taxi were targeted for destruction as the world watched; we turned to our television for grisly updates and even vestiges of hope.
3. The Paris Attacks
A series of attacks that devastated one of the world’s most renowned cities, the November 2015 violence in Paris took us all by surprise. A country that had already been on high alert since the offices of a satirical magazine, Charlie Hebdo, located in France had been the site of a heinous terrorist attack in January of the same year, the French people were hit again. With six locations in the city hit by suicide bombers and gunmen, 137 people’s lives came to an end.
The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant ultimately were the ones who would claim responsibility for the brutality, meaning the already hated group once again reminded us why they are so dangerous. Although their less deadly but equally disgusting actions in Brussels mere months later nearly made our list, the fact that operatives converged on four more locations in Paris made it clear which event had to be chosen here.
Attacking places as varied as restaurants, theaters putting on rock shows, and a stadium, the seemingly random targets even further frightened the world as it proved that nowhere was safe. The fact that so many people escaped with their lives, including 368 people who suffered injuries, led to many, many accounts of people who witnessed the events firsthand hitting our airwaves.
2. The Columbine High School Massacre
Schools are supposed to be a place society sends our young to learn the ways of the world around them without fear of weapons and death. On April 20th, 1999 any semblance of belief many people had that our children were in no danger on school campuses, was forever ripped asunder. Taking place in a mostly unknown area of Colorado, a high school, just like the one most of us attended and sent our loved ones to was the target of two teen killers.
Entering the school in the late morning, the two perpetrators carrying guns and pipe bombs underneath trenchcoats began their assault in the school’s cafeteria. Carrying four guns, four knives, and ninety-nine homemade bombs, the duo murdered thirteen students, injured an additional twenty-four and finally turned their guns on themselves.
Watching in horror on a Tuesday that was otherwise just like any other, footage of students escaping via windows, running to safety and mourning the lost lives of their peers was terrifyingly visceral. Shots of the school from a distance, that featured lines of news trucks and reporters covering the event, felt icky, even though they were providing the footage we were watching.
1. The Attacks of September 11
Prior to these attacks in 2001, we all knew that there were forces that constantly sought to cripple the American people. There had been attacks in the past, even at the World Trade Center buildings, but we still felt safe in our ignorance that the country would continue to be able to thwart their attempts. Then one morning we woke up, whether we were actually asleep or moving about our day, to the world where that was no longer the case.
Once news broke that a plane had somehow hit one of the twin towers, we were shocked that an accident like that could have taken place. Searching for answers, we assumed that there had been some cruel mechanical malfunction or a pilot had made an appalling error but when it happened again we began to understand what was happening. Accompanied by awful but less destructive images of destruction at the Pentagon and reports of a plane falling in a field in Pennsylvania, we were not prepared to find ourselves in this new world.
As unbelievable as the events already were, when one of the twin towers fell and then the other, it seemed too ghastly to be real. A famous landmark that was now reduced to rubble and a cloud of smoke that caked the street, other buildings, people and everything else, we’d never seen anything like it before. Dominating every single channel for days, amid the calamity, we also saw America and its allies come together in mourning and love.