The following article was originally written on September 11, 2001. As part of our coverage of the 20th anniversary of September 11, we are reposting content that highlights how we covered the day and its aftermath, as well. as its cultural significance in American history.
At the beginning, there was work. A great story was being born, and we were trying to catch it on the fly. There was work to be done for an additional edition, words to be written even as history was being born and planes were still missing and buildings were still falling. Grab it on the fly and try to say something useful and get it right too, because you tell yourself this is the first draft in the story and shit, you’re a pro.
But even though there was work to be done, we were drawn to TV because TV is where we go at times like these. Press services bring words, but television brings pictures, pictures like no one has ever seen, a toy airplane flying through a Lego building, only the airplane is not a toy, and 50,000 people work in this building and the one next door.
You look at the pictures and read the words and someone yells, “Two more planes are missing” and “State Department car bomb” and “Dogs are sweeping Air Force One.” On television, they show a replay of a man named Andy Card handing a note to his boss, George W. Bush, and the president’s face turns cold. It reads to Florida schoolchildren, the kind of sure, tame political thing presidents love to do. But at the end of the day, presidents aren’t judged for how well they read to kids, but for what they do when their chief of staff hands them a note saying the world just turned upside down.