There are only a few events that I can tell you with absolute certainty where I was at that time. Sept. 11, 2001, was one of those times. I was working my first newspaper job at The Phenix Citizen, in Phenix City, Ala., a small town located in southeastern Alabama that September morning.
It was about 8:45 a.m. and I had just returned from taking some pictures of an automobile wreck, and I was walking past my publisher’s office.
He had his TV on, and I stopped by to say hello, about that time, I saw the footage of the second plane hitting the World Trade Center.
I looked at my publisher and asked, “What movie are you watching.”
My publisher turned and said, “This is live, breaking news — it’s live in New York City.”
He and I watched in silence for about a half hour or so. Around 10 a.m., I had to go to one of the local high schools, Russell County High School, to take pictures of a rehearsal for a play that students were putting on later that week. As I walked into the school, I couldn’t help but notice that just about every classroom and office had the news on watching events as they unfolded.
I got back to the newspaper office, and got together with the staff, and we game-planned our coverage of that historic day. This was my generation’s Dec. 7, 1941, and to borrow a quote for President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, it was truly a day that “lives in infamy.”
That day, I managed to track down people who had loved ones in New York as events unfolded. I even spoke to a local banker whose son worked in the towers. He was one of the fortunate ones — he got out alive. As a staff, we spoke to the local National Guard unit, and while the commander couldn’t tell us much, he understood we had a job to do.
It was a long day, as we put out a special edition. As I drove back to my apartment, it dawned on me that my time in the Air Force had officially ended just 12 days earlier. I had spent six years on active duty and another four in the reserves.
That night, I remember a girl I was dating asked me if the Air Force would call me back to active service — I was a medic during my military days. I told her that I wasn’t sure, but if the call came, I would answer it.
I hold many memories from that day from 13 years ago, but mostly, I remember just being mentally numb that entire day.
I think about how much the world has changed in 13 years, and I wonder if it will ever be the same. I highly doubt it.
But I am grateful to those men and women who continue to fight for our freedoms and liberty in a faraway land, and I pray daily for their safe return.