September 11, 2001

On that day 7 years ago, I was still a rookie copy editor and page designer at the newspaper. Fresh from college, I had been working there just 9 months, and this day would be the first day I would see what an impact working for the media can have – not just on the readers, but on the ones who work so hard to tell the story and create the pages that people will see.

I had taken a short-term job at a local coffee/sandwich shop in town, and I woke early that morning for my shift there (note: early that morning for night editors is much different than for most people. I believe I woke around 8:30 a.m.)

I showered and got ready for work, had some quiet time with my dog, and called Jeff to say good morning. I knew there was something wrong the moment I heard his voice. “A plane has hit the World Trade Center,” he said.

As I talked to him on the phone, the second plane hit. I still could not wrap my head around what happened, until Jeff told me “There’s no way this is an accident.”

I drove to the coffeeshop in shock, listening to NPR on the way there and having the events start to sink in. Everyone was quiet at the coffeeshop – the TV was on, people were coming in more for the company and less for the coffee.

I felt like I needed to be at work – my real work, the newspaper. I went in early, and the scene there was the chaos that you often see in movie-set newsrooms. This was where I was supposed to be.

I designed my first double-truck (other than college) that day – and I am not sure I have the words to describe what it means to be creating the pages of history. I will say that it is during times of disaster that I miss working at the newspaper the most – the world is crying and hanging on, and I felt that I could do my small piece to help with their hurt – by choosing stories that explain, writing headlines that console, selecting photos that speak.

Jeff was in the IRR in the Marines, and I feared he would be sent overseas. After a long night at work, I drove to his apartment in Charlotte. As I passed by a sports bar with a window front, I saw President Bush on the big-screen TV, talking to America. It all felt very surreal and scary — knowing all those people had lost their lives, not knowing how vulnerable we as Americans were until that day, wondering if the love of my life would be asked to defend our country.

I got to Jeff’s, found him sleeping, and I held on tight.

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Seven years later, I am in one of the cities that suffered the most – New York. I don’t know what to expect as I go out into the city today, but being here feels both comforting and intrusive at the same time. I will try to observe and try to be respectful of all of the hurt that the city has felt and still feels. And I will think of my colleagues from Sept. 11, 2001, and how my history was made – being with them that day.