9/11 Ten Years Later

We all know where we were when we heard about the 9/11 attacks. I was in a West Hartford coffee shop with one of our veteran news photographers Mike Fisher. Neither of us understood the gravity of that moment when we heard “a plane crashed into the World Trade Center.” For about 10 more innocent minutes we remained a news crew who had seen a lot of “accidents” and assumed this could be one too. As we rode the elevator up to the Channel Three newsroom, we were carrying our drinks and wondering about our next assignment. We walked over to our then news director Deborah Johnson to watch the video coming out of New York. Moments later the second plane hit. With the look on my news director’s face and expression of “oh no” I instantly understood what I had not realized until then. America was under attack. At 26 years old, I had never lived through war on our soil. As the daughter of a WWII bomber pilot I had heard my Dad’s account of Pearl Harbor, and how he and all of his classmates instantly dropped out of college to go fight the war. Yet, in my own young life War had been something a few brave Americans fight far away while the rest of us continue on with school, work, kids and life. But in that moment, I, like my Dad, wanted to serve. I asked my news director to send me to New York right away. She decided I should stay and cover the story of the wounded coming to CT hospitals. Of course that would change as we learned there were very few survivors to treat. I can remember Dennis rushing in with a few shirts and jumping in a news car to make his way into Manhattan. I would end up joining the crews the next day.

WFSB News Crew covering 9/11 attacks

In the midst of work, I was worried about my own family and friends. My brother works in finance in the city and my father just happened to be in Washington for a meeting at the Pentagon. Thank God that meeting had been moved the day before to another office and my brother and friends were all ok.
The morning after the attacks our photographer Eric Hurst and I boarded a train in Fairfield with Connecticut firefighters heading to Ground Zero to help. Manhattan was in chaos. As we got off on the train platform at Grand Central it was eerily empty except for a priest who blessed us all. The firefighters boarded a bus to get to the still burning buildings. We were asked to separate from them for our safety. We proceeded to walk to Ground Zero and decided we would go until someone stopped us. That didn’t happen until we were right in front of the smoldering wreckage. Regular folks from all walks of life were trying to get in to help rescue people…and emergency crews at that time were not stopping them. I interviewed a hotel doorman who had come to New York to be an actor. He was writing his mother’s phone number on his arm so they would know who to call if he didn’t make it out. He didn’t have a uniform but like the soldiers generations before him he was willing to die to save a fellow American.


It was an exhilarating feeling to be an Eyewitness to history, this was why I became a news reporter. Though at the same time I felt deeply saddened and helpless. As the days went on, one after another, people would come up to us begging to put their loved one’s picture on TV so they could be found. It didn’t matter to them that our stories aired only in CT. To these desperate families we were a source of hope. Sometimes I did an interview just to make them feel better. We worked around the clock. Our clothes were dusty from the debris in the air. We sometimes wore gas masks just in case.
One night Dennis and I took a walk in between shows and visited a firehouse where all the firefighters were killed except one. That was the first time we ever saw each other cry. About 10 days later we all came home. Though none of us would ever be the same. As journalists, we had just covered the biggest story of our lives though unlike other tales of destruction, we had lived this one from our hearts the same way our viewers did.

 
 
Dennis and me near Ground Zero
 

 

News Photographer Brain Elba capturing a crushed police truck

10 years later Dennis and I think of 9/11 as the time that connected us for life. It is a story we will one day share with our children. I imagine they’ll probably listen like I did to my Dad, unable to fully comprehend what it was really like. As we mark a decade since the towers fell I hope we can change our world for the next generation. A world where we have more tolerance and compassion and less anger and destruction.
For the family’s forever changed by the attacks I wish you peace and strength as the years continue to pass.

 

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5 Responses

  1. The tears are streaming down my face.

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  3. The year 2001 should not be repeated

  4. Kara- what a deeply personal story, thank you for sharing. From the hotel doorman to the family members desperate for answers, it’s wonderful that you responded so willingly to deliver the story to the rest of us. I share a similar story about my father from that time: A few weeks after the attacks I remember being in my parents’ house and seeing a visitor pass from the World Trade Center marked 9/10/01. He had never told us about that, but I do know we all share the same unspoken gratitude for what we have and not what could have been.

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