The phone started ringing. I knew it was someone from The Star. I didn’t exactly feel like working on my day off, so I let it ring a few times before reluctantly answering. It was The Star’s then-metro editor Anthony Cook.
“Nathan, this is Anthony. Have you heard?”
“A plane just crashed into the World Trade Center,” he said.
I could hear in the background that the office was completely alive. At that time of the morning, it wasn’t supposed to be that alive.
“They’re thinking it might be terrorists,” Anthony said.
I could hear a twinge of annoyance from a man who possessed the patience of Methuselah.
“We’re trying to get everyone we can on the story. It’s all hands on deck,” he said.
“Does that mean you want me to come in?”
“That would be nice …” Dial tone.
I dragged myself out of bed and arrived at the old Star building on 10th Street. I entered the side door directly into the newsroom in time to see the second plane hit the World Trade Center live on TV. I heard several people gasp. I sat down at my desk and looked up to see Anthony standing in front of me. He gave me my story assignment, but as he walked away he mentioned something that finally made me grasp the importance of the day’s events.
“The last extra we did was for the Kennedy assassination.”
I looked around and saw many of my colleagues trying to get updates about friends they knew in New York. Some people were crying. Others were silent. Others focused on their jobs. I tried to work on my story but wound up reading the AP Newswire for hours. Later, I found myself staring at a TV screen with John Fleming — then the Editorial Page editor.
“You know,” he said, “Don’t go jumping to conclusions about who did this.”
His point was that there could be several perpetrators. People forget Oklahoma City was only six years prior. But even then, I thought it had to be terrorists. They’d bombed the World Trade Center before.
I fielded several calls from people asking if the Army was going to reopen Fort McClellan. I got an answer — probably from someone at the Joint Powers Authority — and started telling callers it wasn’t going to happen. There were questions about the Anniston Army Depot and the security of the chemical weapons stored there. I chased down a lot of rumors that day.
Some time that afternoon, I walked outside and looked toward 10th Street. There wasn’t any traffic. I looked over at the Alabama Power property next door and saw no activity.
I don’t remember what I wrote about or if it made the Extra edition, but I do remember the silence — the eerie stillness of it all — and the realization that 9/11 made it all the way to Anniston.
Nathan Solheim worked at The Star from 2000-2005. He’s now the managing editor of DU Today, the University of Denver’s online news website.