By Brian Knox
Originally published Sunday, September 16, 2001
I’ve spent the past few days absorbing quite a bit of information from newspapers and television news reports on Tuesday’s terrorist attacks. But no matter how much information I keep cramming into my brain, it doesn’t help make the reality any more believable.
Can this happen?
Did this happen?
Sometimes I have bad dreams, and those dreams are just as real as anything in my life. I had my share of bad dreams Tuesday night. When I awoke, for a split second I had hoped everything had been a nightmare, but I quickly realized the tragedy was real.
What can you say about an event like this?
As journalists, its our job to put events into words and provide analysis and commentary on news events. If there was ever a news event, this is it.
But how can you put what happened Tuesday into words? Many try, as is evident by all the special editions of daily newspapers around the country that were swept up as soon as they hit the streets. But I don’t know if there are words to describe Tuesday’s attack.
Despite wanting to stay by the television to keep up on the day’s events, I had my own news reporting to do. Obviously, this was a story that affected the people of Wise County just as it did all other Americans.
I knew it was time to find out their reactions.
The first time I ventured outside of the office on Tuesday, it was to walk across the street to a prayer service at a local church.
I entered the sanctuary not only as a reporter, but as an American and a Christian who felt deeply saddened by the continued reports of chaos.
Yes, I was there to cover this prayer service with my colleagues as a news story, but this is one news story that was unlike anything I had covered before. Usually reporters interview people about their personal experiences, whether it is battling cancer or perhaps winning the big game. We normally don’t have the same experiences as those we interview.
That wasn’t the case Tuesday.
On that day, we were all going through the same mixed feelings of sadness, anger, confusion and uncertainty about the future. It was a news story that affected everybody, even reporters.
I saw a mix of the emotions at the service. Many wept, many sat in quiet contemplation and others gathered together to pray. Like many in attendance, I choked back a few tears as I attempted to sing the first verse of “America the Beautiful.” Never had that song had so much meaning to me.
Some at the service said the attack reminded them of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor 60 years ago.
At 24, I’ve never really experienced our country at war. While I’ve heard and seen pictures of Pearl Harbor, until Tuesday, I never really knew what that day felt like.
Later that day, I was in Alvord when I passed a gas station. I had to cross into the opposite lane of traffic to pass about four cars who had stopped in the road. They were in line for gas.
I started to pass by, but I had to turn around an go back. I had a gut feeling I knew what was going on.
“I’ve heard gas is already about $3 a gallon in the Metroplex,” one woman said to me as I walked up to take a picture of the odd sight. Rumors about sharp increases in gas prices had caused some panic.
For some reason, it wasn’t until that moment that I really began to feel the historical significance of the day’s events. Something that happened in two big cities half a country away had caused quite a commotion in a little town in Texas.
Driving back to the office, I passed several hand painted signs with the same simple message on each: “God Bless America.”
I see American flags flying at businesses all over town. I’m not sure if they were there before and I just didn’t notice them or if they were unfurled to show support for our nation.
One thing is for sure, I’ll never pass by another American flag and feel the same way again. I, as I would suspect almost all Americans, felt like this was an attack not on a couple of cities, but on our way of life and our very freedom. That flag is a symbol of our freedom, and it has become a rallying point for citizens in our country. And it should remind us how lucky we are to have that freedom.
I think of the words so many of us said as a child, ” … one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”
That’s my prayer.
Look for more of WCMessenger.com’s special 9/11 tribute at www.wcmessenger.com/911.