September 11, 2001 – From where I was

CNN Screenshot of 9/11 breaking news[This was originally written back in 2004 over on my LiveJournal.]

Back in 2001 I was working for a local weekly paper in the foothills of the Catskill Mountains (about 2 hours north and west of New York City). Our production cycle ended on Wednesday, when the paper had to be out the door by 9 a.m. in order to get to the printer on time and get on the stands by Thursday morning. That made Tuesday our major production day. If all was running smoothly, at least half the paper would be done by the time we left Monday night, giving us time to put the news in and proofread all day Tuesday.

Tuesday, 11 September, started out like any normal Tuesday would. I was running late from staying up too late Monday night (after leaving work too late, as usual). My drive to the office was twenty minutes, all back roads, and I took great pleasure in listening to the morning show on the local classic rock station. Like all morning shows, there was always a bunch of joking going on, usually at the expense of local news or members of the morning crew.

Just as I pulled into the parking lot, the morning show was coming back from a commercial and the lead guy asked the other members of the crew if they had heard anything about a plane hitting the World Trade Center in NYC. They laughed and he said “No, really… I just heard that a small plane hit the World Trade Center.” The laughing stopped a little and I turned the car off and went into the office.

“Did anyone here hear anything about a plane hitting the World Trade Center?” I asked when I came in the door.

Of course, no one had. There was no regular radio reception in the office and no TV reception either. So I began trying to find out what was going on.

The web, of course, was the first place I went to. By the time my computer booted up, most of the major news sites had already begun to go down due to heavy traffic. It wasn’t until I got to that I found confirmation of something going on.

That’s when the office suddenly snapped into “real newspaper” mode. We sent people out to a former employee’s place down the street to see what was on TV. They called back in with reports of what CNN was showing (images we know all too well now). Our news editor called out to local officials and emergency workers to get what information he could from them.

By the time the towers fell, we had as much info as CNN did and were starting a list of people we knew who were down in the city. On that list was a columnist who lived not too far away from the WTC. We couldn’t get through to her.

News that the towers collapsed stopped us in our tracks. We all knew people that may have been down in the Ground Zero area when the cloud of debris pushed through the streets like a gray-brown tidal wave.

We pushed through. Because that’s all we could do. We had a job to do.

In that one day, we ripped apart our newspaper no fewer than three times. Late in the afternoon, we got in touch with our columnist who was able to give us a first-hand account of what had gone on. No other paper in our coverage area had that kind of coverage until two days later (which, unfortunately, was when ours hit the stands). The news pages were still being worked on Wednesday morning.

In the days and weeks that followed, we did what every other news organization in the country did–we followed the stories of those who had survived and those who had not. Rescue workers from our area made the trek down to the city to help in the search for survivors, local businesses donated ATVs and supplies. Families mourned the loss of loved ones or waited hopefully for good news.

One family lost a son who worked in the towers. His mother had been working at the WTC when it was first attacked in 1996. She had made her way out through a smoke filled stairwell, shaken but safe. Shortly thereafter, she picked up and moved the family to my area. News of her son’s death hit the family hard, even harder was not having a body to bury.

That one dark day in September has now cost us more than anyone could have imagined.

We’ve lost our sense of security. Our sense of isolation from the insanity of the rest of the world.

No, we weren’t untouched by acts of terror before September 11, 2001, but none had ever been seen by so many at once–all in real time thanks to the wonders of modern technology.

Now, three years later, we still feel the repercussions of those two exploding planes in New York City (and the other two, one in a Pennsylvania field, one, not too far from where I am now, at the Pentagon).

Now, three years later, the president who was just settling in to office when tragedy struck is seeking re-election.

Now we have serious decisions to make.

In the haste to have some sort of response, some sort of sense of security and safety, we allowed our leaders to do a lot of things. The Patriot Act was put in place. We started a war on two fronts, one in Afghanistan and then another (more dubious) one later in Iraq. We created a whole new department of the Federal Government.

People have been locked up, captured, killed and promoted, all in the name of safety and security.

Now we have to decide if it was all worth it.

Are we safer now then we were three years before September 11, 2001? Is it possible for us to ever feel safe again? How much are we willing to give up as we try?

Opinions abound, and I’m not going to get into them here and now.

No. Instead, I’ll just stop and remember that three years ago a terrible act, unimaginable to most, took the lives of thousands of my fellow Americans. Those people, and all the victims of terrorist actions on a grand scale, deserve to be remembered with respect.

Though they didn’t know it, they gave their lives for this country. Just by living and dying in an otherwise normal day in September, they have given us all much to think about.

And even more to work for.

About Kier

I've been on the web since about 1994. I have a background in a lot of things, including a five year stint as a journalist and over a decade of helping people get their message out to the world.

I write on a number of subjects--everything from relationships to personal development to politics and every day life. I hope you get something worthwhile out of it.


  1. […] years ago I was working for a local weekly paper in the foothills of the Catskill Mountains. Just under two hours from the heart of New York City. Our office was in a location with bad radio […]

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