Cameras are always running, meaning at some point, they’ll catch events we weren't expecting to happen. The ten clips that follow have immortalized people right at the point their mortality was being stripped from them. Due to the graphic nature of this content, it may not be suitable for all ages.
September 11, 2001
It’s a day that struck New York, Pennsylvania, Washington D.C. and the rest of the United States hard, but footage of the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center have made it possible for the entire world to experience the repulsive act. The most notable footage of that day depicts the two planes being flown into the sides of the buildings, exploding and killing those on board. Some of the rawest footage of 9/11, though, captures stranded employees of the trade center leaping from impossible-to-survive distances, their last, fleeting moments caught forever in impactful, grainy quality.
John F. Kennedy
As President Kennedy’s motorcade passed through Dealey Plaza in Dallas, Texas, a bullet struck the politician, sending a shockwave and grief throughout the nation. While many merely heard about the assassination over the radio and through televised news broadcasts, today, the internet allows for the recorded event to be viewed by everybody. Cleaned up versions of the 1963 assassination can be viewed, showing in clarity the moment of impact of the bullet fired from Lee Harvey Oswald. The footage continues beyond the President’s death as his wife, Jaqueline, struggles to escape the bloody scene.
Airshows are typically meant to show the prowess of the air force, but even trained pilots aren’t immune to accidents. During the August 1988 airshow at the US Ramstein Air Base, two planes collided as the two groups of the Italian Air Force approached one another. One aircraft crashed onto the runway, exploding into a fireball that sent flames and debris flying towards spectators. A viewer recording of the devastating crash caught the moment of impact along with the explosion on the ground. When the smoke had finally cleared, 31 people had been killed while an additional 500 sought hospital treatment for non-life threatening injuries.
1955 Le Mans
Footage of the 1955 Le Mans 24-hour motor race depicted a fast-paced event that seemed to be going off without a hitch. Amidst the smooth sailing, a crash involving Pierre Levegh and Lance Macklin occurred towards the end of the 35th lap, immediately changing the tone of the race. The 1955 footage depicts the horrific crash as Levegh’s 300 SLR became airborne and tore apart. Debris flew into the crowd, striking spectators as what’s left of the car erupts into flames. The disaster left 84 dead, including Levegh and 83 race observers.
Ethiopian Airlines Flight 961
Sometimes, timing is everything. In the case of the footage of the Ethiopian Airlines Flight 961, a beach-goer just so happened to be filming their time on the coastline when Flight 961 soared by, obviously in a state of distress as it started to crash into the water. Prior to its crash, the flight had been hijacked by 3 men who demanded the plane be flown to Australia. Low on fuel and with few options, Captain Leul Abate attempted to land in coastal waters. Fighting with the hijackers, Leul was unable to fully control the landing, resulting in the deaths of 125, which included passengers, crew members, and the hijackers.
Versailles Wedding Hall Collapse
What was meant to be the happiest day of Keren and Asaf Dror’s lives wound up being a tragedy caught on film. The Israeli couple was enjoying their May 2001 wedding at the Versailles Wedding Hall in Talpiot, Jerusalem when the 3rd floor that supported their combined weight collapsed. The video goes from joyous to tragic as the room fills with dust and the audio turns to frantic screams. Twenty-three guests were killed in the collapse and an additional 380 were injured. Asaf and Keren survived the affair, but the wedding hall engineers, Eli Ron and 3 colleagues, received jail time for negligent assault.
Boston Marathon Bombing
As participants in the annual Boston Marathon of 2013 continued to cross over the finish line on Boylston Street, two bombs detonated. Footage taken from the end-point, capturing runners as they complete their marathon, catches the two explosions, which occurred 12 seconds apart. The explosions claimed the lives of 3 people with over 260 suffering injuries ranging from mild to severe. Additional to footage of the actual explosions, cameras filmed the unfortunate aftermath of blood and bodies lying motionless on the sidewalks.
As the Republic member of the Pennsylvania State Senate’s 50th district, Budd Dwyer found himself caught up in a bribe connected to the overpayment of federal taxes by Pennsylvania workers. A California firm, Computer Technology Associates, had won the multimillion-dollar contract for compensation to its employees from the over-payment – but the victory wasn’t earned legitimately. In exchange for support of the contract, Dwyer was to receive kickbacks of $300,000. During a press conference on January 22nd, with news cameras rolling, Dwyer addressed the bribery, brandished a .357 Magnum and shot himself through his mouth. The entire scene was recorded, including a close-up of Dwyer’s lifeless body.
Australian Dwain Weston was best known for his death defying stunts as a skydiver, BASE jumper, and wingsuiter, but all of that changed on October 5th, 2003, during the inaugural Go Fast Games, when Weston’s wingsuit jump over the Royal Gorge Bridge in Colorado went awry. Amateur footage of the event shows Weston soaring towards the bridge before striking a railing at an approximated 120 miles or 190 kilometers per hour. Upon impact, his leg was severed at the hip and the rest of his body fell, his parachute deploying. Weston’s lifeless body was found on a rock face 100 yards from the bottom of the gorge.
Driving the United States No. 1 sled during the world four-man bobsled championships in 1981, Jim Morgan was in the unfortunate position for the worst injuries when his team’s sled crashed at the final curve of the track. While the start of the leg seemed to be going as planned, as the bobsled hit the last bend, it flipped over. Morgan suffered fatal head and neck injuries as the sled continued sliding for 50 meters or about 165 feet down the track. Footage of the race captured everything from the smooth start to the very tragic ending.