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Memories of Sept. 11, 2001

| September 12, 2021 12:00 AM

On Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2001, I was at work at my hometown newspaper, the Courier-Express in DuBois, Pennsylvania.

Back then, Tuesday was my Monday. I worked as a copy editor, page designer and sometimes as a reporter. My work week was Tuesday through Saturday. The job meant editing news stories, typing news or community briefs that came in the email or on sheets of notebook paper.

I designed pages 2 and 3. They featured local and state stories not deemed important enough or maybe too salacious for the front page. Usually there was a large 3 or 4 column photo of local or state origin.

Stories on page 2 that were too long to fit on one page were “jumped” or continued to page 3. The week ended Saturday when I designed sports pages for our split runs.

That Tuesday was fairly mundane for the first few hours. Then an ad designer named Kevin Cook came out of the lunch room and said a plane had flown into one of the World Trade Center buildings in New York.

I don’t recall exactly what I said, but the thought of it was bewildering at first.

“How could that happen?” I thought to myself. With all the technology and manpower controlling how flights operated it was hard to imagine a mistake had been made.

But in the news business, you get used to seeing the unimaginable.

I was ahead with my work so I wandered into the lunch room where a few others were watching CNN. The broadcasters were speaking in rapid tones, certainly excited, scared and worried about what was happening.

Then, while some of us watched, a second plane flew into the other tower. On TV it appeared as if the plane had flown behind the building, but when it didn’t appear again, we knew what had happened.

One plane could be an accident, but not two.

I went back to the newsroom and told the news editor, A.J. Sylvis, and the managing editor, Denny Bonavita, what happened.

A.J. was nearly done designing the front page and jumping stories to the next-to-last page.

The wire stories and photos started coming in and we quickly realized our nation was under attack.

A.J. wasn’t thrilled about tearing her front page apart, but Denny was insistent. He knew something extraordinary was happening.

Then came a report of a plane crashing south of Johnstown. It turned out to be Flight 93, the one the 9/11 Commission determined was headed for Washington, D.C., our nation’s capitol.

Whether it was destined for the White House or the U.S. Capitol building, no one can truly be sure, but had the plane crashed into either location, the devastation for our nation would have been unimaginable.

Fortunately the brave souls who were onboard thwarted terrorist efforts and it crashed in a wooded area in Somerset County.

I didn’t know anyone intimately affected by the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, but I knew people I went to college with and lived near the Flight 93 crash site.

I traveled to the site sometime after the tragedy with a friend from school. It had yet to be developed into the memorial it is now. It seemed unbelievable such a thing happened a few hours from where I lived and worked.

In terms of our newspaper coverage, the Sept. 11 edition of the Courier-Express’s front page was dominated by stories and photos of that day’s events. The paper was still published for afternoon delivery then and we were one of the few papers on the East Coast to have the news of that day on the day it happened.

While we didn’t take any pleasure in what happened that day, there was a small degree of pride in sharing the news of a moment in our country’s history that should never be forgotten.

Reporter Scott Shindledecker may be reached at 758-4441 or sshindledecker@dailyinterlake.com.