I was headed back from covering a wreck – the details of which I couldn’t begin to remember – on that Tuesday afternoon when I came across maybe the most lasting image of that day, Sept. 11, 2001.
A traffic jam in Alvord.
To be more exact, it was a line at the gas pumps that wound into the streets, causing a traffic backup. It was a common scene around the country that day as fears spread of huge spikes in the price of gasoline. Sensing that this might be something worth capturing for the sake of history, I turned into the gas station and started snapping some photos.
The photo ended up running on the back page of that Thursday’s paper. The front page photo was of people praying and weeping.
When that day began, nobody would have expected either in the pages of our newspaper.
It would have been about the last thing I expected, even as I first heard about a plane hitting the World Trade Center in New York on the radio on my way in to work. Without hearing all the details yet, my mind instantly pictured a small, single-engine plane. “What a terrible accident,” I thought, failing to realize the gravity of the situation.
Tuesday is one of our production days at the newspaper, and I went about my normal routine of getting stories finished up for the Thursday paper. Of course, we had the television on.
Then we heard about the second plane.
For a split second, I was confused. Why would a second plane crash into the building, unless …
And that was the moment that would shake up our nation like nothing in at least 50 years. Terrorism was now front and center, and none of us knew what would happen next.
Of course, we now know what happened next. A plane crashes into the Pentagon. Another crashes in a Pennsylvania field.
The Patriot Act.
A war in Afghanistan.
A war in Iraq.
And on it goes.
Like everyone else, I spent much of that week trying to make sense of what had happened and what it truly meant. I wondered if life would ever return to “normal.”
That Friday I covered a truly bizarre story. We received a call that two bodies had been unearthed outside a home near Briar – an apparent murder suicide stemming from what investigators were calling a “single family cult.”
As I was standing outside the crime scene, waiting to talk to an investigator, I struck up a conversation with a deputy. I remember him saying, “It’s been a strange day.” The only response I could think of was, “It’s been a strange week.”
And it is still the strangest week I’ve ever experienced.
In the 10 years that have passed since that week, much has changed in my life. Most notably, I’m now a father to two children. I know one day they will ask me about that day. I’ll show them the many newspapers that I saved from that week and try my best to explain the inevitable question of, “Why?”
Ten years later, that still is the hardest question to answer.
Look for more of WCMessenger.com’s special 9/11 tribute at www.wcmessenger.com/911.