Cook: Reliving news to understand it better
We huddled on the couch Friday night, speechless. After avoiding TV programs about 9/11 all week, we had given in and watched Tom Brokawís ěDatelineî special on the terrorist attacks.
And the old sadness came back.
The stone wall I had put up between the events of that day and my emotions crumbled as Lisa Beamer described how her husband, Todd, used to herd their little boys out the door with the words, ěRoll on.î
Those were the last words she heard Todd say as he ended his cell phone call to join fellow passengers in a revolt against hijackers on Flight 93.
The plane crashed into a Pennsylvania meadow at 500 mph, killing all 44 passengers and crew members in an instant ó a heroic detour from the terroristsí intended target in Washington, D.C.
We all remember the day so clearly.
The Post was still an afternoon paper in 2001, and the crash happened about two-and-a-half hours before deadline. We would be one of the few papers to get this news in readersí hands the same day.
This was before Twitter, Facebook and constant use of the Internet, so we first heard the news from a co-worker whose wife learned about it on the TV or radio.
We turned on the newsroom TV and watched in disbelief. One plane could be an accident; two was a plot. Word came of plane crashes at the Pentagon and, mysteriously, in Pennsylvania. How many more would there be?
It didnít take long to realize this was the most newsworthy story of our lives. We could not cover it on the scene; the Associated Press did that for us. But we could cover our communityís reaction ó the quick scheduling of prayer services ó and talk via phone to New Yorkers with Salisbury connections.
We had planned a front-page story about Elizabeth Dole announcing her candidacy for the U.S. Senate that day. But the story and the announcement got pushed back by the dayís events. A photo of the burning towers and accompanying stories took its place. And no one seemed to mind that we missed our deadline that day. We still got the paper out.
Invisible in the coverage of 9/11 were the journalists behind the cameras and note pads. Then and now, every form of news media has its place in recording history and helping us understand whatís going on in our world.
Our nationís most tragic moment was also televisionís finest hour. From coast to coast, Americans hardly took their eyes off the TV screen all day.
Now, as we relive that day 10 years later, television puts us back in the moment like no other medium, replaying ó and replaying and replaying ó the fiery explosion, the collapse of the towers, frantic people fleeing the billowing clouds of concrete dust.
Sirens, crying, confused shouts.
And the firefighters, paramedics and police officers running in the opposite direction, rushing toward danger instead of away from it.
While TV can put you in the middle of the action, still photography has the ability to freeze the moment.
So you can ponder it. Inspect it. Analyze it.
Be inspired by it.
That was the impact of Thomas E. Franklinís photograph from ground zero. A photographer for The Record of Bergen County, Franklin snapped many shots that day, and his newspaper shared them with the Associated Press. There were so many scenes of destruction and chaos, from the crash of the towers to the search for survivors. In the midst of all that, Franklin spotted three weary Brooklyn firefighters raising a flag ó as if to say the United States still stood strong.
As we looked for photos to put on the front page for the next day, Sept. 12, 2001, this one jumped out. This was the message we wanted to share with readers after Sept. 11 ó the message the United States wanted to send the world. We were not beaten.
That photograph made us remember who we were and what we stood for, and it helped us turn from despair to determination.
Images like that stick in your mind. But what helps you really understand what has happened and the impact?
Words. Analysis. Perspective.
ěLocalî means different things to different people. On Sept. 11, 2001, what happened in New York was as local to us as what happened at the corner of Fulton and Innes streets. The attacks affected us all. They changed our lives.
The part of me that was wary of reliving 9/11 felt heartened as I read the stories in todayís paper ó local stories about peopleís experiences and attitudes as well as national stories that put it all in perspective. They told of strength, perseverence and understanding.
We should not separate ourselves from 9/11 any more than we should separate ourselves from the men and women in the Armed Forces who, as a result of that day, stand on watch in Iraq and Afghanistan.
So I commend to you the stories and photos in todayís special section, ě9/11: Ten years later,î front to back, and the 9/11 material elsewhere in the paper.
Instead of opening up an old wound, I believe these stories help us understand the scars left behind ó and the healing yet to come.
Elizabeth Cook is editor of the Salisbury Post.
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