It’s fascinating how everyone holds their own unique Sept. 11 story close to their hearts. For some, it’s a vivid recollection of where they were when that first plane struck the World Trade Center’s towering structure. The disbelief, the questions about what could have gone so horribly wrong – those moments are etched in our collective memory. We’d soon come to understand that it was no accident.
The emotions that coursed through us were intense, to say the least. Shock, denial, and a thirst for retribution gripped us all.
On that fateful morning, I was at the Minden Press-Herald, en route to the Bossier Press-Tribune, making a brief stop in my dad’s office. It was there that he broke the news of the initial crash. We watched in disbelief as the footage from that clear, azure sky played before us. Then, the unthinkable – the second plane struck. I had to ask, “Is that video from the first crash?”
Dad replied somberly, “I don’t think so.”
Once the gravity of the situation became clear, I knew I had to make my way to the Press-Tribune and coordinate our coverage. En route, I learned about the Pentagon attack through the radio, and my heart raced with anxiety. I couldn’t reach Bossier fast enough. I immediately called Clint Land, my editor at the time, and had him start working on local updates. Little did we know that this would transform into a significant local news event.
Within a couple of hours, we had a plan in place: gather information from Barksdale Air Force Base and seek out individuals with connections to New York City. But as the saying goes, “the best-laid plans…”
A call from a concerned reader interrupted my office work. The voice on the other end exclaimed, “Air Force One has been cleared to land at Barksdale.”
I replied with a hint of skepticism, “Air Force One can probably land wherever it wants to.”
Our office was directly beneath Barksdale’s flight path, so if the President’s plane were to land here, we’d have front-row seats. I instructed our receptionist to keep an eye on the sky above the building. Within minutes, she rushed into my office, breathless, shouting, “It’s here! It’s here!”
As I heard the engines above us and caught a glimpse of the blue underbelly of the President’s 747, Clint and I made a beeline for the main gate of Barksdale. But our efforts were in vain – no one was allowed on or off the base.
All the local news outlets had congregated in a median across from the gate, and we were all seething with frustration. We had covered countless “mundane” events at Barksdale, and now, when it was a monumental news moment, we were denied access.
After what felt like an eternity, a lone SUV emerged from the main gate and approached our group. A uniformed man and a well-dressed woman stepped out and approached the KSLA News 12 van.
“Is this a ‘Sat’ truck?” the lady inquired.
“Yes, it is.”
“Excellent. I’m a producer with CBS, and I have the President’s remarks recorded. I need to uplink this to the world.”
As the world tuned in to a recorded video message from President George W. Bush, Air Force One soared back into the September sky.
When I look back on those events and the emotions they stirred, they remain as vivid as they were on that unforgettable day in 2001.
In addition to being such a pivotal day in our nation’s history, September 11th also holds a special place in my heart as my parents’ anniversary. Since their passing, this date has taken on a somewhat awkward significance. However, it’s also a moment to pause, reflect, and remember.