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The day that wouldn’t end

At 8 a.m. this morning, I paused for a moment in reflection. Then, I felt the urge to write.

So, I posted the following on my personal Facebook page:

At this moment, 12 years ago, I received a phone call from our general manager, telling me there had been “an accident” in New York City, prompting me to turn on the newsroom TV. I turned it on just in time to see Flight 175 strike the south tower. I had already pulled an “all-nighter” in the newsroom, but the next time I would sleep would be approximately 4 p.m. the next afternoon. It was a day that changed my life — all our lives — forever.

I don’t say this to dwell upon the tragedy, but to remember the price of freedom is eternal vigilance.

I spent the bulk of that day, the day that seemingly wouldn’t end, capturing the stories of local people in Maquoketa and Jackson County, where I worked at the time. There was an impromptu prayer vigil at the courthouse that afternoon, and by evening, rumor and panic led to long gas lines, prompting the police chief to close all gas stations in town until morning.

I covered it all. And, when there was nothing else to cover, I went home, and watched the rest of the story unfold on TV.

Everyone who was old enough at the time to remember knows what happened Sept. 11, 2001. But, there is a rapidly growing generation of young people who have only ever known life “after the towers fell.”

To them, it’s a story told in history books, or once a year when those of us who “lived through it” on TV recount where we were. But for many people, it’s a day that hasn’t ended, even 12 years later.

I think of Jean Cleere of Newton, who lost her husband Jim, in the attacks on the World Trade Center. I also think of my good friend Brent Hoffman, who was at work inside the Pentagon at 8:37 a.m. (Iowa time) when Flight 77 slammed into the west side of the building.

They share a common bond, although they have never met. Both suffered unfathomable pain that day, and yet both have been able to find peace through their faith in God.

Truly, they will never forget.

• • •

If you’re reading this, thank a teacher. If you’re reading this in English, thank a soldier, sailor, airman or Marine.

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