8:46 a.m. — American Airlines Flight 11 crashes into the South Tower of the World Trade Center in New York City
9:03 a.m. — United Airlines Flight 175 crashes into the North Tower of the World Trade Center
9:37 a.m. — American Airlines Flight 77 crashes into the Pentagon
9:59 a.m. — The South Tower collapses
10:07 a.m. — United Airlines Flight 93 crashes into a field near Shanksville, Pennsylvania
10:28 a.m. —The North Tower collapses
It’s been nearly 20 years, and the tragic events of Sept. 11, 2001, are still fresh in our minds.
It is a day etched into our country’s collective memory. But what happened that day, and how it affected us, is also etched into our individual memories, just like the memory bank that stores painful thoughts of your broken ankle or messy divorce.
Twenty-four days from now, our country will recognize the 20th anniversary of this very solemn occasion. On that day, many of us will pause to reflect. You will reflect on where you were. You’ll reflect on what you were doing. You’ll reflect on what you felt. And you’ll reflect on how things are different today.
On Friday, Sept. 10, the Kodiak Daily Mirror is going to publish an insert that includes 9/11 reflections, recollections and feelings shared by KDM readers. To help you feel comfortable sharing something so personal, I am going to use the rest of this space to share with you where I was on that morning and how I felt.
I was working at a weekly newspaper in Greensboro, North Carolina, at the time, and I was in the office making final decisions about that week’s content on that Tuesday morning — a beautiful fall morning. A TV monitor in the newsroom was tuned to CNN. On most days, it was nothing more than background noise.
Then one of my reporters overheard the first reporting about a plane that had apparently crashed into a New York City office tower. Everyone in the room gathered around the screen, and we turned up the volume. I still remember the confusion from those initial broadcasts: What had just happened? Was it an accident? Could someone have done this on purpose?
While New York City news crews were trying to get answers to those questions, and a hundred others, a second plane crashed into a second NYC office building. Suddenly, people knew this was no accident. Then a plane crashed into the Pentagon, followed by another plane that crashed in a Pennsylvania field while en route to another target in the nation’s capital.
I’ve been in the news business all my professional life, but this news was different. It was overwhelming. And so was my grief. And my anger. And my disbelief.
Even as these events were unfolding and everyone in the newsroom was staring at the TV monitor or their computer screens with a look of collective bewilderment, I started thinking of the impact on our nearly finished news product. I had to do that. There was, after all, a job to be done. Besides, any other thoughts were too painful to process.
I pulled my managing editor aside and we talked about stories we could put together in the next eight hours that would matter to those who just realized their entire world had changed. We pulled all the other content off already finished pages, and I called a quick news meeting.
We talked about local connections and local impact stories we had the best chance of getting. We talked about who knew people or had family in New York City or Washington, D.C., to see if we could talk to “real people” who were living out this horror story. We knew we needed to talk to local companies with New York or D.C. operations to see how they were going to be affected. We agreed on a plan for talking to business, education and community leaders to see what changes, if any, they were planning to make locally.
After all, at that time no one knew what might happen next.
Interestingly, no one in the newsroom wanted to talk about who might have done this or why. No one was sharing personal details about trips they may have made to the affected areas. We were all focused. Perhaps we were too scared to talk about the bigger picture that might be unfolding.
When I got home that night, my wife and I sat in the living room fixated to the TV screen. I remember pushing the remote from one channel to another to another. They were all saying the same thing, and showing those same horrifying images. The news cycle had hit warp speed, and those who were trying to report from Ground Zero had no way to keep up.
Our kids were 9, 7 and 5 at the time. It didn’t take long before I turned off the TV and, as a family, we prayed for those who had lost family members, neighbors, friends and co-workers that day. The next day, our Homeowners Association sent out an email saying they would be hosting a candlelight vigil that Friday night.
We gathered with our neighbors at the appointed time and designated spot and walked slowly through the neighborhood — not saying anything but holding tightly to our children’s hands. Other families were doing the same thing. At the end of our walk, we each took a candle, lit it, and held it while a prayer was said, and then we dispersed.
Each family walked home as twilight approached. Few words were said, but for the first time that week I had the feeling that everything was going to be OK. Nothing was going to be the same. But we were going to make it through this. I just didn’t know how.
I would love to read your story and share it with other KDM readers. Please send it to me by Sept. 1 to be included as part of our special publication. Limit yourself to no more than 200 words and include your full name and address. If you have any photos that relate to the moment, feel free to include one and identify everyone in the photo.
Kevin Bumgarner is publisher of the Kodiak Daily Mirror print edition and kodiakdailymirror.com. He and his wife, Melanie, have three grown kids and a beagle named Sadie. He can be reached at email@example.com