Any ordinary Tuesday became historical day we will remember in September

August 06, 2011|Joel Huffer

I don’t remember exactly what was on television that morning, but it was a day like any other, so it was probably “Bob the Builder,” “Dragon Tales” or “Bear in the Big Blue House.”

My son, who was 19 months old, was in the living room playing with my wife and waiting for a friend of mine to arrive with his son, who spent Tuesdays with us while his parents were at work.

Like any other Tuesday, the front door opened to their arrival, and my friend’s son bounded up the steps to greet his playmate.

His father wasn’t as chipper. In fact, he appeared distracted.
“Are you guys watching TV?” he asked.

“Sure,” I replied. “Why?”

“A plane just crashed into the World Trade Center,” he said.

We quickly flipped the channel to news coverage of what we believed to be a terrible plane crash 150 miles from where we were living in upstate New York.

Within minutes, we began to learn that it was much more.

As we watched footage of the tower billowing smoke and listened as reporters offered accounts from the scene, we saw a second plane enter the right side of our television screen and strike the second tower.

At this point, it became clear — the first crash was no accident. We were under attack.

We continued to watch the reports from what later would become known as ground zero, staring in awe at what seemed like something that could be produced only by Hollywood filmmakers.

After about 30 minutes, the station we were watching turned to a reporter at the Pentagon. As he spoke about the crashes in New York and the government’s response, a third plane struck the building near Washington, D.C.

Less than 30 minutes later, the fourth and final plane crashed, in a field near Shanksville, Pa., a little more than 100 miles from Hagerstown.

We watched the reports throughout the day and struggled to wrap our minds around the reality of what was happening. Hundreds, maybe thousands, of lives had been lost and countless people had been injured.

I went to work that night in a newsroom in Albany, the capital of the state where a major historical event still was unfolding. The mood in that newsroom — that day and for many days after — I still can’t describe.

The events of Sept. 11, 2001, changed the lives of not only those living in New York, Pennsylvania and near the nation’s capital, but of everyone living in the United States.

For eight days, beginning Sept. 4, The Herald-Mail will publish stories as we approach the 10th anniversary of the terrorist attacks. We will talk to members of the military, first responders, members of the religious community, elected officials and local residents. We’ll share their remembrances of that day and share their views of how different the world is today compared to the relative calm of Sept. 10, 2001.

As part of our series, we want to give readers a voice. We’d like to give you an opportunity to pay written tribute to those who died Sept. 11, 2001, and to those who have served our country in the military in the days since the attacks. We’ll post your tributes at and publish some of them in the newspaper.

Send your tributes to Please limit them to 100 words or less.

Joel Huffer is assistant city editor of The Herald-Mail. He can be reached at 301-791-7796 or by email at

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