It was deadline day for the two weekly newspapers I worked for. There was a special election going on to replace the late Joe Moakley in Congress. I was already behind in my stories.
I had a full day of interviews, election coverage, and writing ahead of me. The day began earlier than most for me.
I had an 8:30 meeting with a man I had never met before and knew going in I would never see again.This is typical in the news business. It was for a story on the recovery process for contaminated groundwater in a residential neighborhood. We met in the dining room of a Cape-style house that the contaminating company had bought from the owners. Coincidentally we joked about that house being “ground zero” for the clean-up effort.
Towards the end of the discussion, the guy’s phone rang. He spoke a few sentences of surprise. Hung up the phone and said, “A plane crashed into the World Trade Center.” We were both stunned.
I got into my car and tuned into WBZ radio, and listened. The first images I saw came when I went to another stranger’s house. Her son had died a few days earlier in a motorcycle accident. She had it on her TV, and the second tower hadn’t been hit yet.
My next stop was home to let the dog out. That’s where I had the chance to turn on the TV and get a look at what was going on. By then the second tower was hit an all air traffic had been ordered grounded. I watched both towers fall live.
The rest of the day was a blur. I remember saying to a local high school principal that the towers collapsed. He was incredulous. Of course he was also trying to manage the information stream coming to his 14-18-year-olds.
We finished the day with election results and a never-before-felt sense of vulnerability.
In the weeks and months that passed, I came to know many people who were affected. I met a woman whose fourth child was born a month after her husband perished on one the planes. I had friend whose aunt was in the South Tower and she escaped.
I have visited Ground Zero a few times in the years since, and I have to say I’ve always been stunned at the feeling around it. There’s a bustling city around it, and an active construction site, but it still maintains a sense of quiet and peace. If only we could achieve the same as a nation.