Every generation seems to have its proverbial “Day of Infamy.”
For some, it’s the bombing of Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941. For others, it’s the assassination of President John F. Kennedy on Nov. 22, 1963.
For my generation, it’s Sept. 11, 2001.
That day, the world – not just America – changed forever.
At the time, I was a 25-year-old news editor at The Parkersburg News & Sentinel who was just getting used to a new executive editor who came in earlier that year.
Even then, I was a night owl, working the late shift to produce the next day’s edition. I was seldom out of bed before noonish, especially on days I stayed late to get a jump on the next edition of the newspaper.
For some reason, though, I was up early that morning. I had fixed breakfast for my mother who, at the time, was in poor health.
After our meal, we sat and chatted and watched her favorite early morning shows on television.
Then, shortly before 9 a.m., the first news flashes began hitting the airwaves.
Initially, as we watched in amazement and horror, neither my mother nor I expected that it was anything other than a freak and tragic accident.
Soon, we would be proven wrong as a second plane struck, followed by the third that crashed into the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., and the last one that crashed in a lonely field in Pennsylvania.
Prior to that day, terrorism really wasn’t in either of our vocabularies, nor was it engrained in the consciousness of the nation.
Terroristic acts didn’t happen on American soil. They were relegated to the backs of everyone’s minds as things that only happened in the Middle East or in depressed third-world countries.
The events of that day, of course, changed that forever.
That was immediately apparent when I made it into the office right before 10 a.m. News reports were coming in, literally, every minute.
We immediately began to scramble to get a second edition of the newspaper out on the streets so that our communities would be informed about the awful events that were still transpiring.
Phone service was spotty and, for a time, cell phone reception was nonexistent.
The calls we were getting were tips about local residents living in New York City and, even one about a Parkersburg woman that worked in the World Trade Center. Sadly, she died in the collapse, which made the whole situation hit even closer to home.
America changed that day and has evolved over the past 15 years.
After the tragedy, the country, every state and small communities throughout the nation banded together in support of our fellow Americans, our first responders and our police forces.
The volunteer efforts following the tragedy were monumental, with many West Virginians traveling to NYC to assist in the search and rescue mission.
Sept. 11, 2001, showed the absolute worst in human kind, but it also – ultimately – showed the best, too.
While American likely never will recover from such an awful catastrophe, actions following that fateful day definitely showed our nation and the world why America is the greatest country on the planet.