A roller coaster of emotions
When you spend your journalism career in the business-to-business sector, as I have, you don’t often get the opportunity to cover momentous events. Ten years ago, I did. I was working for Telephony magazine at the time and was the lead writer on a special section — which we pulled together in two days — that reported on how the nation’s telecommunications systems held up to the tsunami of calls that were placed in the immediate aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
A few weeks later, I was dispatched to New York City to report on Verizon’s recovery effort in Lower Manhattan. A major central office — the original headquarters for the New York Telephone Co. — had been severely damaged when one of the World Trade Center buildings collapsed and rolled into it like a giant avalanche. I have so many memories from that assignment, which resulted in two articles that I believe are the best I’ve written in my three-decade-long career. One vivid memory is of looking down upon the still-smoldering remains from a 40-foot-wide hole that had been ripped into the façade of the Verizon building by steel girders that flew through the air like giant javelins.
There are others. I will never forget the moment of clarity — and of terror — we had upon learning of the crash of the third plane in Pennsylvania, which confirmed our fears that this was an orchestrated attack and caused us to wonder whether a plane might be heading to Chicago. Nor will I forget the frantic call I received from my daughter — 14 years old at the time — the day after the attacks. She was worried about a series of “explosions” she had been hearing, which turned out to be sonic booms created by the fighter jets that were patrolling the skies over Chicago. And I’ll always remember the AK 47-toting soldiers who patrolled our airports in the months following the attacks, as well as the time that the contents of my carry-on bag were thoroughly searched — and I mean thoroughly — because I was flying to New York on a one-way ticket — just as the terrorists had been on 9/11.
It was a very weird time, equal parts sobering and exhilarating. It was like nothing I had experienced before as a journalist, and I suspect I never will experience anything like it again. At least I hope that I don’t.
This month, Donny Jackson, Mary Rose Roberts and Lynnette Luna report on how public-safety communications have changed in the 10 years that have passed since the 9/11 attacks. It’s not easy to encapsulate a decade, but I think that they did a great job and am certain you will enjoy their effort.
Without question, Sept. 11, 2001, will be remembered forevermore as one of the darkest days in our country’s history. It is exceedingly difficult to find a silver lining in an event that caused nearly 3,000 Americans to lose their lives. But if there is one, it is that public-safety communications are far better today — and promise to be even better in the future — as a direct result of the catalyzing event that was 9/11.
In closing, I’d like to leave you with a quote from Dave Rosenzweig, the Verizon executive who was in charge of the aforementioned recovery effort, which perfectly sums up my feelings about what I experienced as a journalist in the aftermath of 9/11.
“I don’t want to do anything like this ever again,” Rosenzweig said. “But I was blessed with having the chance to do it once.”
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