The following is a letter DiscoveryNews.com’s Managing Editor Amanda Onion wrote home shortly after Sept. 11, 2001.
DiscoveryNews is compiling a collection called Letters Home After 9/11 and would like to include yours. Please email your letters or emails to email@example.com, taking out any parts you’d like to keep personal.
Amanda wrote the letter below to her hometown minister, Scott Planting, the Saturday after the 9/11 attacks. Amanda’s mother, who had a copy, recently sent it to her and it brought back a flood of memories.
From Amanda: Sometimes, memories of events as tumultuous as 9/11 can fade or change over time. I think it’s important that we remember that day — those days — as they were at that moment. That’s why we’re asking you to contribute as well.
Saturday, Sept. 15, 2001
I heard you were interested in hearing what it’s like here. I, and I think most people here haven’t really yet come to grips with what happened. The whole city is walking around in a daze, in some kind of horrible, never-ending nightmare.
I was at work at ABC when this happened and have been working ever since. Not really sleeping, barely eating. That morning I got to work at 8 am. At 8:20 we have a meeting to settle on what news we’ll cover for the day. Since I cover science, I’m to write a story about how scientists have concluded that more stem cell lines are needed for research. Then, at 8:50, I hear someone in the newsroom say, “Oh my God.”
We all look up at the TV monitors and see the unbelievable image of the upper floors of one tower of the World Trade Center burning and smoking. We learn a plane has crashed into it. We assume it was an accident. I call mom and tell her something terrible has happened.
The editors quickly gather and assign stories. I’m told to write a story about what allows the building to remain standing despite being struck by a plane. Then the next plane strikes. There’s an audible moan from the newsroom. Now it’s clear this is not an accident. It’s clear the city is being attacked by terrorists.
For about an hour I can’t track down a friend of mine. She was leaving for work shortly before the first plane struck. I leave several messages for her at home and work. I don’t hear back until later. She’s OK. She was on the train, above ground, when the second plane struck. People in the train watched it happened, cried out and then the train went back underground. They rode the rest of the way in shock.
I start making calls. I talk to structural engineers, some of whom had worked on the design of the World Trade Center. They begin to explain the buildings’ complex architecture and how they could remain standing. It appears to be a testimony to the trade’s ability.
I start to write my story. Then the first tower falls. We all feel sick. I start over again. I call everyone back. My story now is what caused the tower — and eventually both towers — to fall. After I file it I’m asked to go out and do some reporting.
I go outside and see streams of people walking briskly north. It seems like the entire city is walking, walking in the streets, in the sidewalks, in the parks. And they’re all heading north, away from the nightmare that’s in lower Manhattan. Many are carrying bags of bottled water and food. Many have heard that the city’s water supply has been poisoned. I talk to people who have walked for miles — everyone is scared. A plane flies overhead, everyone looks up, terrified. It’s a fighter plane.