Eleven years ago this morning, almost 3,000 people were killed in the midst of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
Thousands of people lost parents and siblings.
As I watch my Facebook feed this morning, dozens of people are sharing their Sept. 11 story.
I’ll share mine here, and I encourage you to share yours in the comments.
When I left my townhouse early that Tuesday morning, I remember thinking how strikingly beautiful a day it was.
The sky was a piercing blue, and I didn’t see a single cloud. It was about 8:00 a.m.
At the time, I was a 23-year-old rookie business reporter for the Herald-Journal in Spartanburg, S.C.
Up to that point in 2001, there had been a sharp decline in the already-dying textile industry in the South Carolina upstate.
At least a dozen mills, plants or factories had shut down that year alone, and we were working on a large — eventually award-winning — series called the Death of Textiles.
That morning, my editor Chris Winston, the lead writer on the project, myself and our photographer for the day, Sallie Turner, met at 8:30 a.m. to visit and take photos of the remains of the first mill in the Upstate to include in this series. We were about 25 minutes from Spartanburg, almost to Greenville.
The morning was picturesque.
The mill was serene, bathed in scattered sunlight through the lush green canopy above.
We had no idea what was about to happen.
When we returned to Chris’ Jeep Cherokee to head back to the paper, he noticed he had several frantic voicemails from Bridget Bradburn, another SHJ reporter and Chris’ future spouse.
Her sister lived in lower Manhattan, and like all Americans she was reacting to the chaos unfolding on television during the national morning shows and trying to make sure Chris knew what was happening.
After connecting with Bridget, Chris got in touch with our Managing Editor, Benjy Hamm, to make a decision on what our next move was.
As part of our business beat, our team was responsible for coverage of the Greenville-Spartanburg International Airport, which is located almost exactly between the two Upstate cities. Fortunately, we were very close to GSP at the mill, so we went straight there.
By the time we arrived, the second plane had hit the towers. We watched on television and interacted with stranded passengers and other members of the media stationed at GSP.
I’ll never forget watching at one of the airport bars as the first tower fell in front of our eyes on national television.
Shortly after, we were told the paper was printing an afternoon edition and we would need to write a reaction story from the airport and dictate the story over the phone to an editor so it could make it into the special publication.
I was actually surprised to be able to find a link to our story from 11 years ago, but I was able to. You can read it here.
That was the professional part of my day.
The personal side was filled with frantic phone calls to my family, and my fiancee, Kacy, who was a senior at the University of South Carolina, 90 miles away from Spartanburg.
When I remember that day, I remember the stark dichotomy of the long day.
The first part was communal shock and grief. Being with people, first at the mill, then at the airport and later back at the paper. Americans who had been attacked and didn’t know what to make of it or what would happen next.
Then, I remember returning home to a lonely blackness.
There were no choices on television that night. Every parent company ran its news feed on all of its cable channels. So, ESPN was ABC News, Fox Sports South was Fox News, and so on.
There was no escape. This had happened.
It was time to reflect, time to remember the lives lost and time to prepare to live in a very different world.