20 Years Ago

Sept. 8, 2021
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20 years ago on September 11, 2001, I was working as a reporter in Seattle, WA. I was to be doing live reports for the early morning news on KING 5, the NBC television affiliate. My first live hit was scheduled for 6 a.m. to do a story on the instability of the piers on the Seattle waterfront. A few minutes before six o'clock, the live shot was canceled and we had switched to network programming and breaking news of a plane that had flown into the North Tower of the World Trade Center in New York City. My photographer, live truck operator, and I watched the coverage on our small 10-inch monitor. We watched as a second plane, United Airlines Flight 175, flew into the South Tower of the World Trade Center.

The country was under attack.

Even though we were more than 2,800 miles away, we had to cover the story. I directed my crew to head for the airport, but we were rerouted to one of the major hotels in downtown Seattle. As we arrived, we were told a third plane, American Airlines Flight 77, had been crashed into the Pentagon in Washington D.C. When we entered the hotel, the lobby was filled with people who had been having breakfast but were now glued to the big screen tv. A number of people were on their phones trying to get in touch with loved ones or friends or business associates who worked in or near the Towers. We were able to interview a few of them. Then, as we were shooting footage of the people watching the big screen TV, the Towers collapsed.

It wasn’t long after that our assignment desk sent us to what was, at the time, the Bank of America Tower in Seattle’s financial district. It was the city’s tallest skyscraper, and it was being evacuated out of fears that it may be a target. We recorded hundreds of people pouring out of the main entrance. We interviewed some of them. They were scared, confused, and in a state of disbelief.

Eventually, the building was empty. As we started packing up our gear, I ran into a friend who was a reporter for a different station. We hugged. A few moments into our embrace we both started to cry. The emotions of the day had become too overwhelming to maintain a journalistic stoicism.

I retell my experience of 9/11 every year so that I don’t forget. Now it has been 20 years. These days, what I recall happening in the days and weeks that followed was the unity and brotherhood all Americans felt for each other. But I can’t recall precisely when that faded away.

I think in order to honor the victims of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, we need to rediscover that unity and brotherhood that once covered this nation like a security blanket 20 years ago.