To say that it was a beautiful September morning like any other sounds cliché now, but that’s exactly what it was – crisp, clear and utterly unremarkable. Until it wasn’t.
As a local newspaper with a 9 a.m. deadline back in 2001, I can say with certainty that no New York City news was planned for that day’s front page – in fact we rarely ran a “wire” story on Page 1 at all, excepting major national news.
I can’t recall what our top local story was going to be that day, but I do remember my design for that day’s paper changed radically shortly before deadline.
Once the reporters were done writing their stories for the morning, they’d often browse what were then scant online news sources. That’s when I started to hear chatter out in the newsroom – something was happening in the city.
From there, it gets blurry – the news was coming in fast and furious, and with only vague detail and a ton of speculation. First I made room for a tiny blurb about an aviation accident, until it became clear that it was so much more.
As I rearranged that day’s front page, The Evening Sun reporters abandoned me in the newsroom – the only cable TV was down the hall in the publisher’s office, and live TV was our best source of information. While they watched it unfold in real time, I waited for the latest AP wire story to cross for print.
My most vivid recollection that morning is taking a brief break to walk outside by myself on the fire escape “balcony” overlooking the Lackawanna Ave parking lot.
And I remember looking up at the sky – to see billowing smoke? Aircraft? Explosions?
Now, I know it was a silly impulse – but then, the terrible news was coming in so quickly that you didn’t know where the terror might strike next. Even a moment of uncertainty in idyllic downtown Norwich was enough to shake one to the core.
Eventually we went to press about an hour late, with the most up to date information we had. It wasn’t until hours later that the true breadth of what had happened revealed itself. And in the days that followed, we looked at the tragedy through a local lens – mourning the Chenango natives lost in the attacks, and chronicling how this community came together in amazing ways through memorial services, fundraisers, supply drives and, perhaps most profoundly, in a general and genuine sense of unity, camaraderie, love and support. That, was truly remarkable.