News 3 team remembers 9/11 on the 20th anniversary

US Sept 11 Book Excerpt Falling Man
Posted at 9:44 AM, Sep 10, 2021

The News 3 team is remembering tragic events of September 11, on the 20th anniversary of the deadly day.

It was the worst terror attack on American soil and no matter your age, watching the senseless acts unfold likely had a lasting impact.

Now, some Anchors and Reporters from News 3 are explaining how September 11 has impacted them.

News 3 Anchor Barbara Ciara

"I remember thinking what a beautiful September day it was, until it wasn’t. I had just returned home from a long weekend on the Outer Banks when, I froze in front of my television to see the incomprehensible unfold before my eyes. The drive to work at News 3 was a blur. Once in the newsroom we dispatched crews to go to the scene at the Pentagon, and New York City. All the while, trying to ignore the feelings of shock, and sadness we were all trying to suppress.

The phone was ringing in the newsroom, local people who had relatives in New York and the Pentagon wanted information. Cell phone service was disrupted, air travel was discontinued, it was chaos. Our job was to sort through the madness and try to provide information.

The weight of that responsibility is something I’ve never experienced before or since. As this is a Military region, we decided to make reporting on the American military response a priority.

In the following weeks I boarded the USS Theodore Roosevelt to cover the air campaign against Afghanistan. On board was one of the flags that had flown at the site of the World Trade Center. I saw grown men and women cry as the flag was passed through the hands of the crewmen on board. The overwhelming sense of purpose and patriotism I witnessed was uplifting and reaffirming. Americans of every ilk were fiercely united. For a moment in time, we were truly one nation."

News 3 Anchor, Reporter Zak Dahlheimer

"I had just started a new school year in 3rd Grade at St. Juliana Catholic School in West Palm Beach, Florida. I remember being in Mrs. Bender’s classroom, when suddenly, someone on the intercom told everyone to turn on their televisions immediately. I was confused, and didn’t know how to feel at the time, nor knew the circumstances right off the bat. But, I was amazed at the real-time reporting of the events by journalists as I started to learn and understand what happened. Seeing this reporting helped laid the seeds of interest of me wanting to pursue a career in journalism.

We were then told that if we wanted to go home, we could have our parents pick us up. My mother was a teacher at the school, and I immediately went to her classroom to spend the rest of the day with her. That afternoon, everyone who remained at the school went to our church for an impromptu mass and prayed for everyone impacted in the attacks.

My father traveled regularly for business. Unbeknownst to me, at the time, my father left on a plane that day for a business trip to New York City. My mom was concerned but got a call from him saying he was in Atlanta for his connecting flight to New York when the attacks happened, and he was okay. He described walking through the terminal and seeing all the departing flights info immediately turn and say “cancelled.” It was something he never saw before and hasn’t seen since. He was able to get one of the last rental cars available at the airport and drive all the way back to south Florida, making it home late that night.

It’s a day I’ll certainly never forget. As I got older, and even on this 20th anniversary, it has left a profound impact on my life having lived through it in real-time, versus just learning about it in a book or a documentary. It was the first example I witnessed of our country coming together in tough times and uniting as one to carry on and face whatever tasks may be at hand."

News 3 Reporter Julio Avila

"I was in the fourth grade, living back home in New York and I was in school. Throughout the day, no one --be it staff or teachers -- told us about the attacks. I only found out about it when my mom picked me up from school. We lived a few blocks away and my mom was explaining to me what happened. I remember being confused and no understanding exactly what happened. I saw the images of Lower Manhattan at home as my mom had the TV on. It was non-stop coverage.

I thought that this must have been a major and coincidental plane accident. I remember flipping through the channels and seeing every local station talking covering what happened. It continued through the day, into the night, into the next day, and for weeks to come. I remember seeing and hearing military jets overhead. We lived next to a railroad line that carried commuter trains to and from the city, there were a few trains coming into town but none heading the other direction. It was somber at school the next day and our teacher tried to explain what happened in the best way she could.

Living one hour away from New York City, it was somber around my hometown too. No one we knew worked in the World Trade Center and none of our family friends had anyone either but even if we didn't know someone there just the mere fact that we lived so close was impactful.

I felt confused because at first I thought this was just a coincidental airplane crash consisting of several planes. It was only later did I hear about terrorism. I had no idea what the word "terrorism," or even words like "radical extremism" was. I think it's arduous to explain these terms to a child. We eventually understood and I remember feeling upset, angry, and confused as to why something like this would happen.

I remember there was also a feeling of pride as everyone placed American flags on their homes and there were memorial efforts being run. It didn't matter your race, religion, language, everyone placed American flags. Being Latino, my family and I lived in a section of our hometown that was heavily Latino and everyone had American flags.

On how the attacks impacted his career, Julio said - I think it's hard to answer this one, because covering anniversaries each year is one thing. I've got to meet people who hosted commemorations and people who were there that day or traveled up in the aftermath. It's an honor to share their stories.

Going back to my main point, I say covering anniversaries is one thing. To be a reporter on the ground that day on location is another thing. Their experiences were different, incomparable to covering anniversaries. I can't begin to imagine what WXTV's Sofia Lcchapelle went through as she tried running from the plumes of smoke, or NJ Burket from WABC who was standing across the street as the towers fell.

Having seen their experiences, anything that I've done comes nowhere near what they went through.

I feel the events changed life in general after that. Sure, there was a greater sense of unity and community, but life after September 11 seemed different. There wasn't this sense of innocence, for lack of a better term, after. It's hard to explain in words.

An event that not many people may remember was the accident of American Airlines flight 587. It happened just two months after September 11. Flight 587 was on its way to the Dominican Republic. It crashed a few minutes after take-off from JFK and crashed in Far Rockaway. I remember we had no school that day. The TV was on and programming was interrupted by breaking news about the event. I remember wondering if this was another terrorist attack. Everyone thought that because it happened just two months after September 11. Everything came to a standstill again. Turns out, it was pilot error that caused the accident.

Like I mentioned, I've met people who were there on 9/11, be in Lower Manhattan or the Pentagon. I've had the privilege of sharing their stories and for that I am grateful. I feel these stories have given me a greater insight each year as what happened and the emotions that ran that day."

News 3 Reporter Angela Bohon

"At the time of the attacks, News 3 reporter Angela Bohon was producing the morning newscast at KCTV in Kansas City:

I was in the booth as we were about to do cut-ins after the main newscast. The network broke in with news of the first plane crash. I figured it was just a bad accident, but when the second plane struck the other tower, I remember feeling very confused. Terrorism wasn’t something I thought much of at that time in my life. Though I lived in Oklahoma City at the time of the Murrah Building bombing, the idea of terrorism seemed like a rare, strange occurrence. I was young and naïve and couldn’t fathom why someone would do such a thing. I’m older now, but still not sure I’ll ever fully understand.

The directors and I watched in the dark control room. I decided I should call my boyfriend (now husband) and tell him what had happened, especially since he was from New York. He did not answer the call, so I left a voice message. I was composed the whole time at work, though in a bit of a daze as I finished my shift. I remember driving home, listening to more of the devastation unfold over the radio. I parked the car in front of my house and, in the silence, began crying.

A year and three days after that, I married my boyfriend, a Navy Supply Officer. With preparing for a move to Japan, the timing would be right for a September wedding. We chose several days after the 11th as I knew if we held it the week before, many of my colleagues would not be able to attend the wedding since they would be busy preparing special newscasts for the one-year anniversary."

Related: List of September 11 events throughout Hampton Roads