The searing images, the heartbreaking stories of the dead and missing, and the nonstop media coverage made for a singular moment in U.S. history, according to a survey -- released Wednesday by Nielsen in partnership with Sony Electronics -- about Americans' top 20 most memorable TV moments of the last 50 years.
Also in the top 5: coverage of Hurricane Katrina, the not-guilty verdict in the O.J. Simpson murder case, the 1986 space shuttle Challenger disaster and last year's killing of Osama bin Laden.
The survey underscores the role of the TV set as perhaps the single most unifying device at our disposal, both as a diary keeper and as a cultural beacon.
The list is perhaps most interesting when you consider what's not on it, Brian Siegel, vice president of television for Sony Electronics, told Reuters. "There wasn't entertainment -- no Super Bowl, no 'Friends' finale. It was all news and events ... memories that are ubiquitous among all of us."
The survey questioned 12,000 participants online in February. They were given lists of some of the biggest moments in history -- culling from news headlines, entertainment and sports -- and asked to rank them.
Sony commissioned the study to assess emotions that audiences attach to TV, with an eye toward boosting the company's program development and marketing, Reuters reported.
Here is the full list of the top 20 most memorable TV moments of the last 50 years:
1. Sept. 11 attacks (2001)
2. Hurricane Katrina (2005)
3. O.J. Simpson murder verdict (1995)
4. Space shuttle Challenger disaster (1986)
5.Death of Osama bin Laden (2011)
6. O.J. Simpson high-speed car chase (1994)
7. Earthquake / tsunami in Japan (2011)
8. Columbine school shooting (1999)
9. BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico (2010)
10. Funeral of Princess Diana (1997)
11. Death of Whitney Houston (2012)