Sunday, September 11, 2011

Looking back

It's hard not to think about where I was 10 years ago when I found out about the terror attacks. We worked all week on the newspaper for Sunday, and all around me people were sharing their stories. I debated even writing about mine today, but as I started to think about my life after that day, I started to see the greater impact Sept. 11 had on the last 10 years of my life.

On Sept. 11, 2001, I was a senior in a high school. I had a free period first thing on Tuesdays, and I was sitting in the quad with my friends, goofing off and laughing. I went to my second period class — U.S. History. It was at least 9 a.m. by that point, and we got called to an assembly. The last time there was an unscheduled assembly, they canceled classes because a water main had broken. We went into the assembly thinking school would be called off.

I don't remember the exact words the headmaster said. I'm not sure I really believed it until I saw it on TV after the assembly. Afternoon activities were canceled, and my day was over about noon that day. I remember being hesitant to go anywhere except home. There was a fear I had never had about going about my daily life.

I went home and started watching the news coverage. I had known I wanted to be a journalist since I was 11 years old, but this event made me even more certain that this was the path I wanted to follow. Journalists run into situations when others are running away, and as I watched all the coverage and read the stories, I wanted to be in the thick of it, not watching from afar.

That weekend I was going on a college visit to a small school that until then had been my top choice and on to visit my sister at school. There had been much debate about the weekend trip since we were leaving my younger brother and sister at home, the football game that weekend was canceled and there was concern about a gas shortage. There were a number of reasons I didn't really enjoy my college visit and why that wasn't the school for me. But I also realized it wasn't going to get me that much closer to my dream.

I started the fall of 2002 at one of the top journalism schools and 3.5 years later after three internships, two reporting semesters and one semester of copy editing, I took my first job at a newspaper. But it wasn't in New York or D.C. It was in a small town in Georgia, but I was in a place where the war was real. Before then I had been pretty sheltered from what was happening in Iraq and Afghanistan, I followed the news, but day-to-day the war didn't impact my life.

That changed in 2006 when I moved to Georgia. I was living next door to an Army post where a brigade of soldiers was just returning from Iraq. A year and a few months later, they were deployed again. At the newspaper where I worked, we put stories about Iraq on the front page much more frequently than most newspapers around the country. We checked the casualty report every night, and all deaths of soldiers from the post went on the front page. And the war got even more personal when the soldier I had fallen for was deployed to Iraq for 15 months.

I've gotten to be in newsrooms when big things happened, none as big as Sept. 11, and each time I am re-energized as a journalist. I dive into work while everyone else pauses. I don't sit on the sidelines anymore. The decisions we make about coverage and the stories we write and edit are the first version of history.

Now that I'm back in the newsroom where I first learned to be a journalist, it's interesting to look back and realize the long-term impact Sept. 11 had on my life.

1 comment:

  1. Liked this post, and the thought of people running in when most of the rest either run out or sit there gaping and motionless.