“Everyone has a cell phone, everybody can record HD video and the opportunities to catch these once in a lifetime events on film are much more common now. People don’t want to see a news guy standing on the side of a road talking about an event - they want to see the raw, emotional, as it happened, unedited, no special effects, event as it unfolds.” - Aeroplane crash survivor Jonathan Fielding
This new documentary chronicles extraordinary events of the year through the lenses of members of the public who recorded history unfolding with their mobile devices.
Using interviews and footage from across the world taking in the scenes of terrorist attacks, meteor strikes, the aftermath of motorway pile-ups, and pictures which became international news stories, this programme tells the personal stories of eyewitnesses who were on hand to record dramatic events.
Among the contributors is Jennifer Treacy, who was running in the Boston marathon in America and recording progress on her camera when two bombs were set off as she approached the finish line. Her footage, supplemented by that of fellow witness Dawn Bennett, shows the chaos unfolding.
Jennifer says: “I turned the camera on myself as I was approaching the finish line and I think I screamed, ‘I can see the finish line,’ and I was just so excited to be finishing the Boston marathon which was my dream. And all of a sudden this big explosion - I felt the ground shake. My first instinct was to get out of the area. I think you can see in my videos you can see my sneakers. I immediately turned and I ran into a building. There was clearly panic on the street, people were crying. The police were immediately evacuating the area saying get off this street.”
As police hunted their second suspect in the bombing, Bob Glatz, a resident in the suburb of Watertown found himself perfectly placed to record the moment he was captured, on his tablet. He says: “All of a sudden there was an eruption of gunfire. It sounded like hundreds of rounds of ammunition being fired. When you hear that amount of gunfire its nerve racking so we ducked and ducked below the windowsill and kept rolling. It took about another 30 minutes to get him out of the boat, they wheeled him up in a gurney and put him in an ambulance outside our window and we have the only footage of him being put into the ambulance.”
In Moore, Oklahoma teacher Robin Dziedzic was with her class in a school at the eye of one of the worst tornadoes in American history. She recorded the moment it hit on her phone, and her pictures were later broadcast around the world. She says: “I knew we were about to be hit…this was a very serious storm and that our lives were in danger. We were getting pelted by unimaginable debris and the top of the school was being ripped off. I let out that blood-curdling scream, there was definitely a moment when I thought we were not going to live through this.”
Two men had very different perspectives on what could have been a major disaster in the skies above Heathrow airport as the engine of an aeroplane caught fire. While Jon Chaplin filmed the burning engine from his seat on board, Manjit Gahir filmed the burning plane as it passed overhead. Luckily, it returned to the airport without crashing but the atmosphere on board was tense, as Jon explains: “I was worried that we would pitch down into a school or a populated area. I was worrying that the engines wasn’t going to make it and it would end up killing a lot of people on the ground. When we did touch down, there was a palpable sigh of relief from everybody, and we just couldn’t wait to get off quickly.”
On Sheppey Bridge in Kent, footage shot by members of the public captured another story which would lead the day’s news - a massive motorway pile-up in fog. Gary Jeal’s footage of the carnage on the bridge was used widely, and he says: “I had my iPad with me and there was a few of us sort of all crowded around, watching news stories as they were breaking and it was strange because we was watching my footage that I had taken literally minutes ago. So we were stuck on the bridge, watching the footage on telly when everyone worldwide was watching our footage.”
Jonathan Fielding started filming on his mobile phone as he realised the small plane he, his wife and seven-month-old son were flying on was going to have to crash land after suffering an engine problem in Utah, America. He says: “You can see the shadow of the wing on the ground, and then the moment we touch down the forces from being flipped over in the aeroplane going end over end the camera flies out of my hand. When we crashed my first thoughts were on Jacob my son, to make sure he was okay. I’ve got Jacob in my arms, just so grateful that nothing happened to him. He’s really the miracle behind this story, nothing happened, he didn’t even get a scratch. As I grab the phone and sweep back towards the plane that’s when people really see that plane is upside down and its all busted up and broken and we’re all just walking out of this experience. I realised after things had settled that I had something pretty special, something unique.”
British base jumper Matthew Gough also recorded the moment in April when he nearly lost his life - as he flew straight into a rock face after opening his parachute. Yet his footage attracted more than two million hits on the internet and earned him invitations to tell his story on international television. He explains what was going through his mind: “When I realised I was flying straight into a cliff I was pretty scared, I’ve seen this type of thing on videos before and it never ends very well. You’re feeling really lonely at that point and you’re trying to let anyone around you know that things are going wrong and you’re going to need help at some point soon. I realised of all things I was going to hit, it was to be this metal container unit and what looks like a goalpost with a few metal spikes, I assumed the worst from that point really.”