Page 4A • Sunday, September 11, 2011
The Daily Citizen
No cake today; it’s still painful
his anniversary is very troubling. No celebration is in order, no cakes, no streamers or gifts. The songs to mark today should be solemn, angry or patriotic. So brutal were the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, that those of us who remember can never again recall the day without a clutch in our chests. It’s important to remember what happened and to preserve it for our children, but perhaps too soon for some of us to see the entire morning unfold again on television this past week and today. A sound bite sweeps us back to the shock and pain of at first thinking, or hoping, that an accident had occurred when the first plane hit the North Tower of the World Trade Center, and then the sinking feeling when a second plane hit the South Tower, and the paralysis in our legs as we stood glued to our spots, watching the towers collapse and all the chaos, smoke and running people — and the jumpers. The poor souls jumping from the towers may have been the most horrifying. But take your pick. There were plenty of images and sounds to stick in our minds that day and forever. We waited with breath held, to hear how many planes were missing, that one hit the Pentagon, that courageous passengers took another one down in a Pennsylvania field. We didn’t exhale for days. We called our families, checked in with God and waited to see if we’d be attacked again as the first few days passed. Airports shut down, there were no planes in the skies, and even morning radio disc jockeys made no jokes in the days afterward. This is painful to recall. We’re still a nation in mourning. The events stirred emotions as if we’d been a family all cozy in our home when robbers invaded and burned our house down and murdered our children and beat our grandparents in front of us. And brave people ran in and tried to save our children and our house, but they were killed, too. And all the carnage was laid out in the yard, and our extended family saw us jumping, burned and broken, from the upper floors and saw the house collapse around us and the firefighters and policemen who tried to save us lying dead in the grass. And as the house collapsed, all our toys and papers and all the things that we treasured and that defined us fluttered on the breeze. There was no shielding anyone from the truth. We could make no sense of it. We didn’t know how many houses would fall or how many moms and dads would be ripped from their families. Ten years later, we’re still twitchy. Last month’s earthquake sent folks in Washington, D.C., diving for shelter because they thought they were under terrorist attack again. And we’re all watching for three people who are supposedly trying to bomb a large American city during this weekend of remembrance. We’re ready this time. We haven’t wasted the last 10 years just sitting around licking our wounds. We’d known that we were vulnerable to someone determined to hurt us, but we didn’t realize they wanted to. We’ve got it clear in our minds now. And we’re looking over our shoulders. We’ve got new memorials and brave wounded warriors walking around with bionic limbs to remind us what’s taken place since terrorists attacked our homes and robbed us of our peace of mind. We’ve watched our friends and neighbors deploy to Iraq and Afghanistan and have seen their families struggle. We’ve seen our governments, emergency workers, our police and firefighters, regroup and plan. We’ve been part of the plans. And we’ve prepared in our homes, churches and workplaces. The terrorists had one incredible victory on Sept. 11, 2001. That’s all they get. We got up, helped one another and fought back. We’ve been stripped of our innocence, embroiled in wars and are suffering a recession and an ineffective Congress. We’ve not yet healed from that day. We never will erase the sorrow. Victims of heinous crimes don’t just bounce back as if nothing occurred. We’ve got the resolve and the talent to get back on track, though, and we will with time. It just maybe takes more than 10 years, so please forgive us if we skip the cake today.
Sept. 11 at The Daily Citizen
acob Brower’s invitation for me to write this piece really got me to thinking. Sept. 11, 2001, at The Daily Citizen was my assignment. What was it like? Well, it was frightening, chaotic, uncertain and unbelievable. Much like your day, I expect. My day started with a call from my Managing Editor Dale Ellis. I was home. It was my custom to go into work at 9:30 or 10 in the mornings and stay until we put the paper to bed at night. I wasn't watching any news at the time, so I knew something must be big when he told me to turn to the “Today Show” and hung up. I could tell he was excited, so I took my cereal bowl in to the living room. I was stunned at what I saw and heard. I remember calling my wife who worked at Harding Press. She said they were just starting to pick up on it as well. I jumped in the shower and hurried to work. I knew we had a crazy day ahead of us, and at that time, we did not know if more attacks were coming. It was hard to leave the television coverage at one end of the newsroom. Dale and I met to plan out our day. It would be the first of many such meetings during the day. As more details started to emerge, we would change what we were planning. The new information that was starting to become available quickly led to ideas on how we could cover the story locally. One of the first calls to come in to the newspaper was
a complaint about alleged price gouging of gasoline. That would become not only a local story, but a state and national one as well. We found out and reported the next day (remember we were and are a morning paper) that gasoline prices ranged from $1.39 a gallon to $2.49 during the day. We discovered that the Conoco Station right down the street from the newspaper kept its prices steady throughout the day. Others did too. How the attack might affect the nation's financial system was breaking nationally, so we sent reporters out to chat with (or call) Charles Green and Donnie Miller. They were calm and reassuring as financial people typically are in saying that the system was insured and safe and sound. Sticking my head out for air sometime in early-tomid afternoon, I discovered that it was a typical midSeptember day in White County. The high that day would be 83. I was sweating — too much actually for it being only in the low 80s. I'm sure it was the day's events as much as anything. One of our part-time reporters, Matt Milligan, a Harding student, did a great job of getting on-campus
reaction. One student told us how scared he was and that his family's house was near Ground Zero. The university announced at some point during the terrible day that its group of students who were going to leave Sept. 12 for a semester in Florence, Italy, would not be permitted to leave at that time. Another Harding student who worked part-time at The Citizen found a fellow student's parents were in the Pentagon. Fortunately, they proved to be OK. Interviewed by our staff, Mayor David Evans told his constituents, “the city will function as normal.” The mayor also said “now is the time for everyone to be a real patriot.” The aforementioned Mike Milligan snapped a photo of the White County Medical Center with its flag at half-mast. The flag flapping gently in the wind depicted the solemnness of the day. The Arkansas Bureau of the Associated Press reported that hundreds were stranded at the Little Rock Airport after the attacks. Some Searcy residents were included in that number. The AP further said rental cars and buses became an indemand item. To get an idea of what else was happening that day in Searcy, I looked through the newspaper files. It was Fair Week in White County. Senior Citizens Day was upcoming, and the major entertainers coming to the fair later that week were TG Sheppard and Billy Joe
Royal. Obviously, the Fair Board would have decisions to make. Kroger was advertising top aged sirloin steaks for $2.99 a pound, and “Jurassic Park III” was playing at the Rialto Theatre. The national AP wire quoted President George W. Bush as vowing to heap vengeance on the attackers. Finally, I remember the big number of area churches that opened their doors for everyone to come together for prayer services. It was another reminder to me that Searcy is the greatest place to live in the world and how much I miss the city and its wonderful people. At the end of the long, unforgettable day with our paper finished and chock full of stories and photos that never in my wildest dreams I would have ever imagined working on, Dale and I found a Chinese restaurant open. The buffet was loaded with a number of delicious-looking items, but neither one of us ate much or said much. It just didn't seem the time or the place to do either. I'm sure millions of others throughout our great nation looked at their plates the same way that night. Some White County families lost loved ones on that terrible day. Our hearts and prayers go out to them. May God continue to bless America. Tommy Jackson is a former editor of The Daily Citizen and is now the public relations officer for the Arkansas Department of Emergency Management.
History, for better or for worse
As anyone in the newsroom will attest, I am not a morning person. It is not until drinking at least two cups of coffee that my brain functions properly and my mood improves to something that can be remotely interpreted as chipper. On especially bad mornings, I do an hour or two of work at home before coming in. This allows me to get things done without interruption, while sparing everyone in the office my crankiness. I do much better with mornings these days, but my dislike of the world before noon goes back as far as I can remember. In college, I went out of my way to enroll in afternoon and late morning classes to avoid the dreaded ring of the early-morning alarm. Needless to say, I was far from pleased when my roommate pounded on my bedroom door at around 9:30 a.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2001. My first class didn't start until 11 a.m., and I was entitled to another 45 minutes of solid sack time. "What do you want?!" I asked, incredulously. "Dude, turn on your TV," he replied. "What? Why? What channel?" "Any channel." It was then that I knew something — The Jonesboro Sun
terrible had happened. I was wide awake. I turned on the TV and saw something I never thought I would see. Our nation was under attack. Without thinking, I slapped on some clothes and headed to the school newspaper. As I drove to the office, I could tell everything was different. The frequently-congested Joplin, Mo., traffic was nonexistent. The gas station I passed every day eerily showed unleaded at the then-unheard-of price of $2.50 per gallon. Walking from the parking lot to the building where the newspaper office was located, you could hear a pin drop. Even the perfect mid-September Missouri weather seemed gloomy. From that point on, details are fuzzy. I know I went to the newspaper office. I know I wrote stories, took photos and designed pages. I just can't for the life of me remember who I
interviewed or what the story angles were. Sadly, copies of that week's paper to jog my memory are nowhere to be found in my boxes of old newspapers. I do remember later getting positive feedback for my work, so I suppose everything turned out OK. Perhaps this memory loss is a defense mechanism. It's not the only time I have no recollection of covering an incredibly sad story, though I know that I did. I guess you just have to separate yourself emotionally from a story to get it done sometimes in this business. The next thing I remember was sitting on the couch late that night after a long day in the newsroom, watching TV coverage of the event. I felt very sad and very angry. How could this happen? How long would it take to find the perpetrator? Are there more attacks to come? Am I going to be drafted? Should I enlist? Everything I thought was important on Sept. 10 no longer seemed relevant. I went to bed that night with more questions than answers. But I knew that I was a part of history — for better or worse. Jacob Brower is the editor of The Daily Citizen. He can be reached at jbrower@ thedailycitizen.com, or (501) 268-8621.
To announce an event for your group or organization in the calendar, mail (3000 East Race, Searcy, AR 72143), e-mail (firstname.lastname@example.org), or fax (501-268-6277) your information to The Daily Citizen. Please tell us what the event is, who is holding the event, and when and where the event will be held. Also include a contact phone number for readers to call for more information. Items must be received one week in advance. Contact us at 268-8621, 1-800-400-3142 The Daily Citizen (ISSN 0747-0401) Periodicals postage paid at Searcy, Ark. Published daily and Sunday (except Monday) by The Daily Citizen, 3000 E. Race, Searcy, AR 72143. POSTMASTER: Send address changes to The Daily Citizen, P.O. Box 1379, Searcy, AR 72145. The entire contents of each issue of The Daily Citizen are protected under the federal copyright act. Reproduction of any portion of any issue will not be permitted without express permission of The Daily Citizen.