Thursday, September 11, 2008

Seven years ago

Remembering how my day unfolded on that terrible day...

I lived in Manassas then, the first of my now four addresses since I moved south. I lived in the dark basement which was always brutally cold in the winter; but I did have the benefit of Dish Network, which the house's owner proudly purchased.

It should be no surprise that I've always been a news junkie. When I was a kid and got shipped off to summer camp for a week, I enjoyed camp for what it was but hated the fact that I felt so out of touch with what was happening elsewhere in the world.

When I woke up that morning, the remote was nearby and I flipped on one of the news programs; I can't remember if it was CNN or our local CBS affiliate, which was my choice at the time before the quality dropped off dramatically a few years later. I remember being confused; the words didn't match the picture. There was quite clearly a fire at the WTC, but the on-air folks were talking aviation.

Later, when the two ends met, I was stunned, as we all were. I flipped between channels to see who was reporting what, but there was no chance I'd turn off the TV. (That same TV had served me well over the years, coming on board during college and serving as the broadcasting centerpiece in the Woodbridge bachelor pad.)

When the first tower fell, I was on WUSA's local coverage, since events at the Pentagon were unfolding. I'll never, ever forget hearing JC Hayward, a veteran anchor and a real pro, mutter only "Oh my God," as it fell.

Then reports came in about the doomed plane that was taken down in a quiet field in western Pennsylvania. One thing ran through my mind: Is this it, is this the big one? Are we all screwed? I mean, four planes in one day?

I was incredibly saddened and moped around for a few minutes. But I figured my best option was to get into work and see what needed to be done. As I drove, the traffic seemed heavy but moving, and I wondered if all the other people on the road were feeling as shitty as me.

Once at work, I managed to slap together a photo page for the special edition that we put out. It wasn't a prizewinner, but we were all still in a fog and just trying to do what we could.

That night, there were three of us back in our Manassas bureau. We all had slices of a larger story, re-connecting with people who had ties to NYC or the Pentagon. I talked with the parents of a kid then at NYU, one that was a pretty damn good soccer player and and an even better singer while in high school. He went on to bigger and better things.

Once we had all filed, I hoped like hell the nearby pub was open. It wasn't. I had just hoped to find someplace to drown the sorrows of the day, and I would have gladly run up a considerable tab that night.

Instead, I went home and tried to sleep.

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