On the morning of September 11, 2001, I stood in the office of the AFRO editor, Willie Givens, former Liberian Ambassador to London. It was no different than any other Tuesday morning. We were creating layout sheets, by hand; reserving space for photos with large Xs and indicating space for text with curling lines. Printing headlines and attaching photos. We haven’t done this in years. No pages (dummies) are walked to production; they are computer generated and the entire production process is accomplished by email from our homes.
But this particular Tuesday, as we concentrated on whatever page was being marked at the moment… I can almost see the page in my hand as I turned toward the file cabinet in the corner that held the 12 inch television that kept us abreast of breaking news at all times…I saw an airplane flying into a building. Huge clouds of smoke emerged. I tried to figure out what on earth was happening on Good Morning America that morning.
It actually looked more like a scene from a bad movie…with the expectation of King Kong climbing up the side to rescue the building from further attack. It wasn’t that kind of movie. It wasn’t movie at all. It was a scene that couldn’t have been imagined by most Americans before that moment.
I certainly couldn’t have imagined such a thing. And at the same moment I realized I was looking at cold reality. I also realized this country would never be safe again. War had always happened in some other place. Our soldiers were always going to other places to rescue other people. And then returning.
But on that morning, war landed in our safe space and life would never be the same.
And on that morning, before I could begin to recuperate, re-gather myself, another attack…and yet another. The Twin Towers. The Pentagon.
And the (s)heroes on United Flight 93 who made a conscious decision to be crashed rather than have the planned attack on The Capitol be successful.
I read about the fire fighters, learned the name of FDNY Chaplain Mychal Judge, who went into the buildings as other tried to escape. I read about those who decided a leap was their best plan of attack from the burning building.
And the nightmares that ensued…as I was awakened multiple times, multiple nights…finding myself in that horrible place of decision…actually feeling what my mind thought that must have felt like.
That office is always my first thought of 9-11. It was probably the smallest in the building. Mr. Givens and I looked at each other in disbelief, each trying to make sense of what we were seeing.
And as we did, or not, the print process never missed a beat.
Originally published on AFRO.com.