By the time I got up that day, my world had already changed.
I was working in the evenings at the Franklin News-Herald and the Oil City Derrick on September 11, 2001 and didn’t wake up until around 10 a.m.
I watched, not knowing what to think or feel, as the north tower collapsed.
I knew what to do, however. I wasn’t supposed to work until 3 p.m., but I called the office and asked where they needed me.
It was simple, familiar. It was something I could do and something I could handle.
At that time, I had been a journalist for barely a year. I usually spent my days in the three-person Franklin office.
As a newcomer, it was not for me to contact government officials, from Congress to local emergency management.
I was told to get a few reactions – like a man on the street – and then head to Oil City, ready for more.
I don’t remember the comments I received, but I know people were willing to speak up – not always the case on this kind of assignment.
My Franklin reactions in hand, I reported them to Oil City. It was probably 1 p.m.
Can’t remember if we released a supplement that afternoon – I’m sure it was a possibility and I was told to do my job quickly just in case.
The editorial staff was full when I arrived. All hands were on the bridge – this kind of work is not something you can stop doing during a historic event.
A busy newsroom is noisy – people are usually sitting, talking on the phone, or typing.
With eight to ten people who know each other and work together in the same room, there should be a comfortable joke between calls.
Comfortable is a relative term. Journalists see horrible things. They read the details of unspeakable acts and then write about them – hopefully in a way readers can handle them. Many become jaded and joke about anything.
This day was different. Journalists were different. The writing was different.
I remember people standing more than usual. Don’t stand and talk, just don’t sit.
I think there was a TV in Jim’s office at the end of the newsroom. I remember people moving this way but not spending a lot of time there. Maybe it was because they were just too busy, or maybe, like me, they were trying to stay the course – to stick to something familiar.
Work is that – even when it’s awful, it’s familiar.
There were bursts of frenzied activity followed by periods of terrible calm.
I was surprised at the amount of information that was coming in. I expected people to just ignore our calls or have other more important things to do.
In many cases, what the people we were trying to reach had to do that day was reassure the public, let people know what services were available, and generally help people to find their way. ‘find there.
My story had focused on the negative, as had the hard news from New York, Washington, and Somerset County.
But, the newspaper held up more than terror that day. It was too early for the heroic deeds and tales of those who survived, but, in addition to sources of help and information if more terror were to come, I like to think that we have created a sense of normality.
Life had changed, but life went on.