September 11 Digital Archive: XML Document

Story:We work in the Central Time Zone, so at the moment the plane hit I was just sitting down to my desk at High Plains Journal. HPJ is a weekly agricultural publication that covers ag in the High Plains, South Dakota to Texas.

Anyway, I was firing up my computer, getting coffee, and chatting with one of my co-workers when we heard the news that one plane had hit one of the towers. Then, only minutes later, we heard another had hit the other tower. By the time I got to the CNN website for more info., they were reporting that the towers had fallen, and that there was an attack at the Pentagon and in Penn. as well.

All I could think at those moments was that the people in those offices were doing just the very same thing I was doing that morning... firing up their computers, getting coffee, checking email and voicemail, getting ready for a productive day.

I prayed, right there at my desk. And, I continued to pray as the reports came in. I come from a strong Methodist background and that's always been my first instict--take it to God. I called my family and prayed with them. I went to church here in town and we prayed.

But, most importantly, I'm a journalist, even if all I cover is agriculture. So, my next instict was to get the angle of how the attacks affected my readers, the farmers and ranchers in the High Plains. We tried to get updates on bioterrorism as they came out in the following weeks, and one of our reporters attended several community meetings. We live in an area that is surrounded by cattle feedyards and processing plants. Food security is our liveliehood. The stories were there, and covering them took my mind off of the pain for others.

Memory:Seeing the exhaustion on the reporters' and photographers' faces as they provided coverage. I am a trained journalist, and I cover agriculture. I will never have to face covering a story like the one that unfolded during that day. I later wrote about it, as a kind of catharsis because I had a lot of guilt. Guilt that I wasn't there to help the media get information to the public. Guilt that there were reporters there risking a lot to get the 20 sec. sound bite or the photo for page one.... and I was safe and secure in Dodge City, Kan., and covering the next update on the new farm bill. Not exactly fair.

My next strongest memory was seeing the rescue workers and their S&R dogs. In my line of work, we see animals contribute so much to our daily lives... the cow dog on the ranch, or the horse in the cattle pen. We know that animals have jobs, just like people. And, the spirit of those animals and their handlers as they searched for survivors was just incredible. Hearing stories of how handlers would hide so their dogs could find them, just so the dog would feel useful and not depressed after so long without something to find. Hearing about the dogs' needs, such as food, protective boots, etc., touched me. You could see the exhaustion in the rescue workers' eyes and in the eyes of their animals. But they wouldn't quit. It was hopeless to look, but they continued. That memory haunts me.

Unlike some of my neighbors, I have actual memories of the twin towers. When I was in high school, we took a trip to New York and visited them. We went up to the observation deck, we ate at the restaurant, we walked through the front lobby.... I have the pictures. Seeing those pictures now, in the face of the tragedy, is surreal.

I don't think there is one memory that stands out. It was all so horrific, and on such a grand scale that it isn't a single memory, but rather a giant ache in your heart. Your heart hurts, so you wonder why, then you rememer the planes and the sight of the towers falling, and the people streaming out of Manhattan, and the newscasts... and on and on, until your mind shuts it all out and goes back to quiet. And, then you realize your heart hurts and the cycle starts up again.

Affects:I live in the Heartland, rural America, land of wide open spaces and prairie. But even here we've seen the affects of 9/11.

The feedlots that once were wide open to visitors are now locking gates and checking IDs. The processing plants are more controlled....more secure. Our farmers and ranchers are even more wary of strangers than ever before. Our churches pray each Sunday for their sons and daughters in the military that are serving overseas.

The biggest affect has been on our local economy. We are rural, so when there is a downturn, we get hit hard. Most well-off farmers and ranchers have some investments to tide the family over during bad times. But, then the stock market went to hell, and stocks weren't worth what they should have been, and compounding it all was 3 to 4 straight years of drought in the High Plains. Bad combination, and that was just the producers who were well off to begin with. We've seen that the combination of the economy and drought have hit the farming community hard.

Now that we've made some progress on terrorism, I hope that we can put this behind us, and start to heal. I hope that my generation will follow in the footsteps of the men and women who lived through Pearl Harbor and remember Sept. 11 in quiet dignity... not in anger or revenge.... but dignity for the men and women killed needlessly, and for the families they left behind.

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