9/11 at the Knight Ridder newspaper bureau

9/11 was such a beautiful day in Washington, DC. Blue sky, a hint of fall, the last of summer humidity.

I was working as the news researcher at the Washington Bureau of Knight-Ridder newspapers in the National Press Building which was roughly two blocks from the White House.

I was watching the TV when I heard a plane had hit the World Trade Center. I thought, "Oh, not again," since I remember the old story about a plane hitting the Empire State Building. Then a half-hour later I saw the second plane come around and hit the other building. I called my father, an ex-Intelligence professional, who said, "It's terrorism."

I thought, "I'd better get to work."

Took the subway in to Metro Center, and came up to see two giggling girl tourists, snapping photos of each other. I knew that their world had changed, and they didn't know. None of us knew.

Got upstairs to discover a plane had hit the Pentagon. My bureau chief, said there was supposed to be a plane on the Mall, so a reporter, I went out to find it. (Yes, if there was one, we'd have know, but everyone was shaken.)

The federal government had been emptying their buildings, so we saw the childcare children enjoying the trip outside in their carts, with their caregivers looking puzzled and worried. There was a long line of people at the one landline telephone because the cellphones were jammed and no one could get through. One man passed us making the sign of the cross, and heading uptown to get away from the mall. An older man in his 70s and his wife were sitting on a bench. It looked like he was having a heart attack but they waved us off.

No plane. We went back to the bureau to add our notes to the growing list to send out on the Knight-Ridder newswire, and I updated our website since I was also web master.

The bureau started to assemble the team from all the K-R properties. We wrote the copy and sent it out. I ended up doing research on other terrorism events, including the previous one in NYC. The televisions on desks all carried information about what was happening in NYC, the Pentagon, and later Shanksville, when we heard a plane had gone down there. The reporters talked with their editors, the consolidated stories went out over the wire, and for the next six weeks, it was a blur.

Hours later around sunset, when we knew more, I went outside and walked around the J.W. Marriott. The only people outside were tourists and they were frantically trying to get out of town. There were military vehicles on the street and soldiers with weapons. When I took the Metro home, It was empty.

I am not sure it was 9/11 but it was that week, when the metro had to unload passengers one day, and an armed soldier walked through, eying us, as if we might be terrorists. Nobody commented. This was Washington, and we knew we were a target.

It was horrifying, exciting, and very hard work. It led into Iraq, into our sending a reporter to Tora Bora, to articles on the new terrorism laws, government agencies, the change in the Presidency.

9/11 changed the world.

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