Remembering 9/11: 17 Years Later
Today, the old saying “time heals all wounds” is nothing short of senseless. Some might even call it offensive. Seventeen years after the day that changed the world as we know it forever, it’s impossible to imagine anyone who lost a loved one on 9/11 not experiencing sadness and pain.
No matter how much time passes, I am simply overwhelmed each year by the all-too vivid memories of what started out as a crisp and clear picture-perfect day here in New York City. As my longtime readers know, back then I was working as a reporter at News 12 Connecticut. My colleagues and I watched the newsroom’s multiple TV screens in horror as the second plane hit the South Tower of the World Trade Center. That moment when we realized it wasn’t an accident was the first and only time I can remember a newsroom being completely silent. Then, in what seemed like a blurred frenzy, our assistant news director shifted into auto-pilot and sent us out into the field with videographers and live trucks. There were no lessons from my journalism classes at Northwestern or past experiences as a reporter that could have prepared me for that unfathomable day. Before leaving the newsroom, I left a message on my parents’ answering machine telling them how much I loved them.
I don’t remember how many live shots I did that day or how many people I interviewed. I do remember the faces of the medical team anxiously waiting to treat injured survivors; the tearful embrace between an ash-covered man and the woman waiting for him on the platform; and all the cars that remained in the parking lot as midnight approached. I wondered how many people would never return to claim them.
In that pre-Facebook world, many of my friends tried to reach me on my cell phone – when the circuits weren’t down or busy – to see if I could help find any information about a loved one who worked in the city. Receiving those messages in between countless live reports broke my heart, and I’d learn later that several of those people being searched for were indeed gone. In the days that followed, I also learned a former friend and News 12 Long Island colleague, Glen Pettit, was killed. A talented videographer, Glen was also a NYPD officer. He was last seen with his camera on his shoulder running toward the towers to capture footage. Glen was 30 years old.
Along with the sadness, shock and anger felt around the country after the attacks, I also remember another unprecedented turn of events. Stores were selling out of Americans flags and random acts of kindness were reported everywhere. Seventeen years later, I realize all three of my Goddaughters – all born after that fateful day – never witnessed that kind of unity in the country they call home. Today, they see social media feeds where bullying takes on a whole new level as people lash out at others who don’t share their beliefs. Simply put, when I think about the state of our world today, it makes me want to cry all over again.
Never one to be political in this blog or on my social media channels, I can’t help write about what’s in my heart. As we mark another 9/11 anniversary, we’re bombarded with headlines surrounding the latest discord in Washington and looming disasters as hurricane season continues. We also continue to struggle with volatile issues ranging from gun control to the cost of healthcare. We even post scathing, combative messages for all the world to see about everything from Nike’s choice of a spokesperson to Serena Williams’ loss at the U.S. Open. What a mess.
On this September 11th, as we all stop and pray for all those lost on this day 17 years ago, let us also honor their memory by remembering the power of love and compassion.
God Bless America.
Special Tuesday Edition: Remembering 9/11
As our nation commemorates the 11th anniversary of 9/11, I hope you will forgive this break from my ordinary health and fitness posts as I share my thoughts surrounding the day that changed our lives forever.
Some of you may remember my account from last year’s anniversary. Considering the significance of this day in our history, I thought it was worth repeating.
On that bright, crisp day in 2001, I was a general assignment reporter at News 12 Connecticut. Shortly after 8:46 am, as we prepared for the daily meeting, our morning show executive producer ran out of her office to tell us a plane had crashed into the World Trade Center. Soon, all the televisions behind the assignment desk were breaking in with news of what we thought was a horrible accident. We then watched in horror as the second plane hit the South Tower.
It was the first and only time I can remember a newsroom being brought to complete silence. What followed was a blur. Our assistant news director shifted into auto-pilot and sent us out. Reporters teamed up with videographers and sped off in live trucks. There were no lessons from my journalism classes or past experiences as a reporter that could have helped me prepare for that unfathomable day. Before leaving the newsroom, I left a message on my parents’ answering machine telling them how much I loved them. I’m pretty sure I said a few prayers, too.
I started the day reporting on local reaction from people glued to the TVs at a local diner in Norwalk. Eventually, I was sent to the Fairfield train station. A medical team was set up for triage to help those returning from the city. As the trains began pulling in late in the day, men and women emerged from the cars covered in ashes. Those were the people I knew I had to approach for live interviews. Some approached me. Most were in shock. In between live shots, I would sit in the news car and cry. When I had cell service, I would check for voice messages with any news about my many friends and loved ones who lived or worked in the city.
I couldn’t tell you how many live shots I actually did that day or how many people I interviewed. I do remember the faces of the medical team anxiously waiting to treat injured survivors; the tearful embrace between an ash-covered man and the woman waiting for him on the platform; and all the cars that remained in the parking lot as midnight approached. I wondered how many people would never return to claim them.
In the days that followed, I learned a former colleague and friend from News 12 Long Island, Glen Pettit, was killed. He was a talented videographer and NYPD officer. I learned about other people’s loved ones who were killed. I held back tears while interviewing people who still hoped someone they loved would come home. I held back tears while speaking with members of the Stamford fire department who wanted to do more to help their firefighter family in the Manhattan. In the fleeting moments when I was alone, I let the tears flow freely.
I also remember how sales of American flags skyrocketed and how people wanted to help each other in whatever way possible. We were wounded, but the American spirit was not broken.
Eleven years later, as we remember those who lost their lives on that tragic day, let us honor each and every one of them by doing good for others.
God Bless America.