FROM THE EDITOR'S DESK: Remembering 9/11
NOTE: This column is based upon my recollections from 20 years ago and if I have misremembered any of the events, I apologize in advance.
I was driving to work shortly after 9 a.m. on Sept. 11, 2001. It was a Tuesday, and I was going straight to the courthouse to cover a Mineral County Commission meeting.
I turned my car radio on, and the announcers were talking about a plane that had crashed into one of the Twin Towers in New York City.
I am ashamed now to admit it, but my first reaction was skepticism. It’s a natural reaction for me, though, for two reasons: I am a reporter and therefore trained to ask questions and get all the facts before I believe or write something that, quite frankly, seemed out of the realm of possibility, and two, I am just enough of a fan of doomsday fiction and movies to wonder if what I was hearing wasn’t actually an advertisement for the latest disaster movie.
Since my drive from home to the courthouse only takes 10 minutes, I didn’t hear much of the news broadcast before I was out of my car and taking a seat in the commission room.
Before the meeting started there was some quiet chattering among the commissioners about the incident, and I learned that there had, indeed, been a horrific incident in New York. In fact, there was talk of a second plane crashing into the towers.
What in the world could be going on? Could this possibly, in some unthinkable super-coincidental way, have been an accident?
I’m sure my mind wasn’t the only one whirling as the commissioners stood for the Pledge of Allegiance, as they always do, and started their meeting.
We were not very long into the meeting, however, before Deputy Dave Rolls opened the door and interrupted.
I’m sure many of you remember Deputy Rolls. He was a big, burly guy who was your typical idea of a police officer you didn’t want to mess with. He commanded respect, and meant business.
On this particular morning, his demeanor was even more serious. He looked around the room, then addressed the commissioners, letting them know in a quieter-than-normal voice that a third plane had crashed into the Pentagon and there were rumors that a fourth, believed to have been bound for D.C., had crashed in a field in Pennsylvania.
This was definitely not an accident.
It was the unthinkable.
And then he said something that really, literally, sent a chill up and down my spine.
“Just keep in mind, you all are sitting in the center of county government. We don’t know what to expect.”
And he left.
The courthouse was locked down for awhile, as best they could in those pre-security-minded days, and the commissioners went on with the meeting as best as they could.
I don’t remember a whole lot about the rest of that meeting, nor do I remember much about what I did after the meeting.
I do remember leaving work as soon as I possibly could in order to catch the newscasts at home on tv.
Mind you, this was 20 years ago. I worked in a small office that was not yet connected to the Internet, and Facebook hadn’t been reinvented as everybody’s “go to” for the latest gossip.
Once I got home, my whole family was glued to the tv, watching the horrific footage throughout the day of the planes as they hit, the towers as they collapsed, and the crowds trying desperately to outrun that awful cloud of dust and debris that seemed to literally eat up the streets around the World Trade Center.
Almost 3,000 people died that day as a result of the terroristic attacks. More than 6,000 were injured.
The people who were lost came from a wide variety of occupations, religions, origins and ethnicities. Some of them died just because they were taking part in what they thought would be a typical work day. Some of them died because they were a first responder rushing to the scene to help others in what must have seemed to them like an impossible situation.
And those who died that day were not the end of the casualties. Months and even years later many who lived or worked around the area began to suffer - and die - from illnesses believed to have been caused by exposure to the dust and debris.
And while I never knew any of those killed that day or since, I will never, ever forget that horrible day and how it made me feel.
Nothing seemed like it would ever be the same, and in reality, many things have not been the same.
Now, when I go to a school to do a story or take a photo of a class project, I have to press the button and be buzzed in, where before I could just walk inside and go straight to my destination, be it the gym, auditorium, or an individual classroom.
When I attend a court proceeding in any courthouse in the area, I have to empty my pockets before the security guard and walk through the scanner, or be manually scanned by a wand.
As a resident and licensed driver in Maryland, I had to produce my birth certificate, Social Security card, and two documents proving my residency in order to obtain a “Real ID” certification necessary if I want to obtain a passport.
So, so many changes we have undergone since Sept. 11, 2001. Many of them have become so routine in the past 20 years that we now think nothing of them. They are just another document to fill out or another hoop to jump through.
What I really have a hard time wrapping my head around, though, is the fact that the majority of today’s college students and young adults just starting out in their careers really have no memory of that day, or how it felt when we first heard the news.
The kids in high school weren’t even born yet.
It is imperative then that those of us who do remember take the time to teach them about it. What it meant. How it felt. How much life has changed since then.
Sept. 11 was definitely the death of America’s innocence. We must never forget that and we must make sure our coming generations understand it.
We owe it to all those who died as a result of Sept. 11, 2001.
Liz Beavers is a veteran writer and managing editor of the Mineral Daily News Tribune. You can check out her bio and more of her work at https://www.newstribune.info/staff/6477370002/liz-beavers/. To reach out to her with a story idea, email email@example.com.