A Day of Unity

The Pentagon, after 9/11
The Pentagon, after 9/11

I’ve chronicled my day 12 years ago as the United States was attacked before.  I won’t bore you all with the details again, if you want to read them, you can look here.

But there was far more unity on that day, 12 years ago, that I remember.  While I can certainly tell you my family’s experiences, and they were many, in the wake of the attacks, I want to take the opportunity to speak not so much about parenting but about unity.

As a journalist, one who works in the media on a daily basis, I tend to be one of those brave few who believe in the industry in which I work.  I’m not saying that others in the industry don’t, I work with an unbelievably amazing crew of people.  I’ve met other talented journalists, including now parenting blogger and Good Enough Mother Rene Syler.  We both worked in Dallas when the attacks happened.  As it happens, I believe we were both home sick that day as well.  I wanted desperately to cover the attacks and was on my way to the airport to fly to New York with a reporter . . . when the airspace across the country was closed.  We already had crews in cars on the way and I was relegated to research and reporting from Dallas.

But I want to take this opportunity to address the nay-sayers and the pundits and the sheer audacity of screaming attention-seekers who use the terms “liberal media” or “media elite” and “leftist reporters” and criticize with no knowledge whatsoever of the industry or the people.

I work in the fourth estate.  I truly believe in the earnest and public discourse of our government and that we are the final and ultimate check on the authority figures in the world.  It was Edward R. Murrow who helped to shine a light on the dark era of McCarthyism.  It was Cronkite who cleared the air and showed the frustrating and maddening war in Vietnam.  It was Woodward and Bernstein who unveiled the coverup that led to the White House when burglars broke into the Watergate hotel.  It wasn’t the CIA or NSA or FBI or any other acronym-named governmental organization.  It was journalists who have two goals: truth and storytelling.  I believe in those things.

September 11th should always . . . always . . . be about the victims and the brave men and women who saved lives, lost lives, and eventually went to fight in Afghanistan to find the people responsible for one of the most heinous attacks against our country.

But a small thing many don’t remember, an act of solidarity that the news media . . . all news media across the country . . . did with no desire for recognition should be remembered as well.

On September 11th, and the days and weeks after, all the news networks and local outlets did something extraordinary . . . something never done before.

We shared everything.

That’s right.  Every shot, every piece of chopper video, every standup, every clip of video, every home video, every scream, tear, wail, live shot . . . every single clip was shared.  CNN, CBS, NBC, ABC, Fox, Belo, Gannett, every station group and network across the country beamed every clip of video they had to satellites and shared live coordinates with every competing network.  This day was so terrible, the attack so horrific, the need for information so great, that competition mattered not.  Every network stayed on the air.  Every station beamed their interviews and video.  The same clips aired on CBS stations and NBC stations in the same cities.  What we, as journalists, realized at that moment was that competition was not what happened this day.  That could resume later.  On September 11th, 2001, the media united as a singular entity . . . and did what they should.  We told the story.  Critics be damned.  We didn’t pat our selves on the backs, no screaming, no punditry, we simply asked “did you need this clip of video?” and sent it into space where it was beamed back down to whomever needed it.

Never before in my career, and never since, has the media as an entity done this.  But never before had we seen a day such as this.

This was a day that journalists and news managers and corporate general managers all said the greater good is served today.  We all did it, nobody complained about the hours spent, the dirt, toil or danger.  Some of it wouldn’t come out for days and weeks, but we all shared those materials so it could get on the air.  We knew the world needed to hear the story.

And we told it.

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