It Still Hurts
For some reason I didn’t change the channel on the TV Wednesday night. With a single click I could have spared myself a revisit to that horrible day on Sept. 11, 2001. But I didn’t. The History Channel offered an anniversary tribute show to that day when life as we knew it spiraled into chaos.
Instead I sat frozen, watching the screen as if it were the first time I saw airplanes crashing into the World Trade Center’s twin towers and then the Pentagon. I gasped as if I had never seen the people hurling themselves out of the towers or the police and firefighters running toward the disaster.
Had I not noticed the people running and screaming in horror when it played out in living color 19 years ago? Did I forget that Air Force One was made to fly from here to there and places in between before President Bush insisted on returning to the White House despite the unknown danger that could lie ahead?
Was I aware of the deep despair that the air traffic controllers experienced that day as four planes dropped to their demise as terrorists hijacked the wide body planes? Had I forgotten that years later President Bush talked about being a president who was suddenly thrust into a different kind of war?
Let me explain why I ask these questions. I’m sure some of my fellow journalists in local media outlets will understand what I mean about seeing some of these things for the first time 19 years later.
You see, when you are in the news business and something of this magnitude happens, you don’t have time to stop and soak in the horror of it all. You have to act. Your responsibility is to your readers, viewers and listeners to assemble and report the local impact, the information people want and need to know. And that’s what we did.
That’s what I remember most on that day in the newsroom of this newspaper. Pages were torn up, presses were held and every reporter and editor reached for their phones and began calling local, state and federal folks who could offer something to help our country get through this. Only hours laters when the paper was put to bed could you hear a collective sigh released in the newsroom.
I do remember how brilliantly blue and clear the sky was when I finally left the office to pick up my son at his school. All I could think is how different our lives would be now. I wondered how we would heal from so many wounds of that day.
So when on Wednesday I watched the tribute program, I saw and heard things that were new to me. When I listened to President Bush talk about Sept. 11, 2001, it hit me how he spoke of his immediate responsibilities: to help those affected and to prevent anymore attacks.
But most telling was when President Bush said he knew he had to appear calm as to keep an already-terrified nation from panicking. Not everything he did following the attacks was well-received but he kept up appearances of being in charge. That’s probably the most important thing he did.
Now 19 years later, our country appears to be on the verge of another war– a civil war of sorts. Are we so distracted by the disjointed factions in this country that we have forgotten what can happen when we let our guard down? I hope and pray not.
Heather Ziegler can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.