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9/11/01 – A new challenge for me, a tragic ending for so many others

September 8, 2011 - Art Smith
September 11, 2001

It’s a date we all remember. A pivotal point, a defining moment in the lives of all Americans.

Today many people recall how they sat watching the events unfold on live television.

Being in the news business, my day was a little different.

In May 2001 The Marietta Times had been purchased by Ogden Newspapers from Gannett Inc., a huge media company based at that time a few miles from downtown Washington in Arlington, Va.

I had worked at The Times since high school, but on Sept. 10, I began working in Parkersburg in my new role as website manager for both the News and Sentinel and The Marietta Times.

In addition to starting a new job on Sept. 10, I also started working on my master’s degree at Marietta College. The week was a personal big deal for me, regardless of the events of Sept. 11. Change is never easy for some people, me included. Somehow the events of Sept. 11 help to put it all in perspective.

While still unpacking boxes on the morning of the 11, the events began to unfold on the television just outside my office.

As soon as it became clear what was going on, we began to discuss what our coverage would be. I recall us holding up the print of The Sentinel to get the stories in. Mid-morning I returned to Marietta to help The Times put together an Extra edition and special coverage for the next day – basically reverting back to my pre-web job as a print designer. I was scheduled to teach a class that night at the college. I canceled it so I could continue to work on the newspapers.

While most American sat glued to their television, I saw very little of the coverage, I heard most of it from the television that was directly behind me. I saw thousands of photos that moved on the AP wire that day. They were gut wrenching then, as they still are today.

The websites were largely ignored that day. NewsandSentinel.com was still a crude hand-built site that required a great deal of cutting and pasting to get it to work. The site launched just a few weeks before; it still had very little traffic.

MariettaTimes.com was still being produced by a digital production office located at Gannett’s headquarters in Arlington. The offices at that time were located in two huge towers not far from the Potomac River. When American Airlines flight 77 slammed into the Pentagon, those towers shook. A short time later they were evacuated. I got a message the sites were being worked on from an alternative location, which I assume was someone’s house.

Of course, in the days that followed, I would see the videos of the towers falling — images that to this day I find very difficult to watch.

Last year I visited Ground Zero in New York. The site is a huge construction site. The site includes two perfect squares that mark the footprints of where the towers once stood.

The Mid-Ohio Valley lost Mary Lou Hague when the towers collapsed. Later several more residents would die fighting in wars in Iraq and Afghanistan – the deaths would include 1st Lt. Christopher N. Rutherford, who died July 2, 2007. Chris had been in a class I taught at MC and had also worked at The Times as a sports writer. He was killed after an IED blew up near him in Balad, Iraq.

Ten years has passed since that tragic Sept. 11 day. I think the nation still has a long way to go to heal from it. It’s hard to heal while the people are still getting hurt and killed from the two wars that resulted from the day.

 
 

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