Eric Douglas Published

WVPB Staff Remember 9/11

flag sticking ouf of names engraved in stone
A small flag stuck into a name engraved in the Ground Zero Memorial in New York City.
Eric Douglas/West Virginia Public Broadcasting

This year marks the 22nd anniversary of the terrorist attack on September 11, 2001. Most of us have an “I remember where I was” story from that day of watching the planes crash into buildings and the horror we felt. The world changed that day.

Nearly 3,000 people died in New York City, Washington, D.C. and in Shanksville, Pennsylvania. 

To commemorate the day, several West Virginia Public Broadcasting staffers contributed to this audio postcard. 

Annie Thompson, media sales associate: I’m sitting there alone, looking at images on the TV and listening to what was going on. It filled me with terror and emotion of what had happened. And also disbelief, just not believing that this could happen in America.

Bill Lynch, producer of Inside Appalachia: We sat around the radio in the office and listened for updates. And then I tried to call my ex-wife in Baltimore, I was worried about my kids. Of course, I couldn’t get through. The phone lines were jammed up with people like me calling family and friends or whatever. I worried a lot. I didn’t hear anything from my ex until maybe a day or so later. I think she might have sent me an email just to let me know things were okay. She was scared. It was like that everywhere. I think we were all scared and wondering what was going to happen next.

Emily Rice, Appalachia Health News reporter: Being a kid from West Virginia, my only assumption was that a coal mine or power plant must be on fire. I ran downstairs to ask my best friend’s mom what was happening, and she sat us down with bowls of cereal to try to explain. She said some very bad people had done some very bad things and hurt people in a place called New York City. It would take months and years for my child brain to comprehend the tragedy. I remember when the death toll was released and wondering how to quantify 3,000 people’s lives lost.

Curtis Tate, energy and environment reporter: On that crystal clear day of September 11, 2001, I was hardly on the front lines of the nation’s pain and sorrow. Yet, I still felt that. I was a 22-year-old journalism student at the University of Kentucky. Because of a late night shift on my part-time retail job, I didn’t even know what had happened until I found out why my midday class was canceled. 

I did, however, worry instantly about my 16-year-old sister. Melanie was a page in the House of Representatives in Washington. On an ordinary Tuesday, she would have been at her page school in the Library of Congress before dawn. And then by mid-morning performing her regular duties across the street at the Capitol. One of them was raising a U.S. flag above the House chamber. I never thought my sister, whose life was probably saved by the passengers and crew of Flight 93, would face a breast cancer diagnosis at age 32. And with a young child, I never thought we’d lose her to that cancer at 34, leaving her daughter and the rest of us to move forward in a world we never thought we’d have to contemplate. Yes, 9/11 changed all of us who are old enough to remember, we learned to conceive what we could not conceive. And that we should never take anything for granted.

Kristi Morey, director of Marketing: I do vividly remember seeing the first plane hit the tower. And you know, like everyone just wondering how could that happen? How could that happen? And so, I continued watching and then after the second plane hit, I remember just getting really emotional and calling my mother because that’s what we do. Right? We call our mom and say, “What’s going on? Is this the end of the world?”

Eric Douglas, news director: The Pentagon is a beautiful memorial, especially in the evening, the way it’s lit and the flags waving. And just the hush in the air. The Ground Zero Memorial is much the same way. It feels like holy ground. It feels like an instant wave of reverence washes over you because you know what it represents, you know the lives lost, you know the terror that those people felt and that all of us felt. It’s something that I hope we never do forget. 

Caroline MacGregor, assistant news director: I remember my flight touched down in Amsterdam. And as I walked through the terminal of a familiar airport, everything suddenly seemed different. People were different, that sense of dread and unknowing hitting the world standing in line to board the KLM flight to Detroit. I remember security at the gate was at an all-time high. There was a sense of collective consciousness; everyone was numb, confused, but on high alert, looking sideways at their fellow passengers with an abnormal level of suspicion.

It was a surreal experience as we were accompanied by air marshals for the trip home. Landing in America, well, that was when I realized the world had really changed and travel would never be the same again. But more than that, so many people who met horrific deaths at the hands of people who hate, a memory one wants to forget, but should never forget.

Chris Schulz, education reporter: It really was such an inflection point in all of our lives and especially in the D.C. area. Very soon after that, we had security scare after security scare from the anthrax attacks to the D.C. sniper. And it was several years of very heightened concern, very heightened attention to security, as the war on terror developed and all those things came to be but even to this day, you know, the the security that we go through at airports and the military and pseudo military presence that we see on public transportation. All of that is a result of what happened that day.

Maggie Holley, director of Education: I was attending college at Morehead State University and as I walked down campus toward my morning class, I quickly realized something was wrong. Everyone was in a hushed rush or a state of confusion. As we were all ushered back to the dorms, it was announced that all classes were canceled for the rest of the day. But it wasn’t until I made it back to my room that I saw what had happened. I will never forget the horrific images on the news. My three roommates and I took turns calling our parents to check in. And to confirm what we were seeing on the 24-inch television screen was an actual reality. The world was forever changed.

Chris Barnhart, director of Video Production: I think it is important to recognize that it wasn’t a sense of patriotism or rah rah America, that I have to go off and fight this war. I enlisted before the war started. But I think that moment, those hours in the morning of September 11, 2001, part of my focus overall into we’re not alone, we’re all one people. What happens three states away impacts me here at home.

So on 9/11, I grew up. I wasn’t just a 26-year-old college student drop out over and over again until I finally graduated. I was somebody who was joining a purpose that was bigger than himself. While 9/11 created a lot of fog and confusion and fear in the world at large, I think for me, it provided focus and direction. And while I wish that it never happened, I think that it was a moment in our history where we can look upon it and go, “What have you done since?” as opposed to “What would you have done instead?”

Gov. Jim Justice has ordered state and U.S. flags at state facilities be flown at half-staff from dawn to dusk Monday. Justice also requests that all West Virginians observe a moment of silence Monday at 8:46 a.m. to honor the innocent victims who perished on September 11, 2001.