Friday, September 11, 2009

Reporters Don't Cry: A Personal Memory of 9/11

Reporters don't cry.

In fact, we aren’t supposed to have any emotions at all when we cover a story. We are trained to trap it all inside; like robots, we strive to check our feelings, politics, prejudices and emotions at the door. We are there to observe, collect, and report only the facts. Feel - maybe. Cry - never.

September 11th, 2001. I stood outside the Pentagon and watched rescue workers remove the remains of dead soldiers and civilians killed inside. On television, it was devastating. In person, on the sidewalks of the Pentagon, the symbol of America’s military might, it was horrific.

We were in shock. The rescue workers and military personnel were in shock. The Washington residents were in shock. All week, we moved about the city, eerily quiet, no jets in the sky, and armored vehicles dotting every other corner. We were talking, observing, and collecting bits of personal stories and slices of life from pawns to power brokers.

We sought out the feelings of Georgia’s leaders. Congressman John Lewis, a man of peace, stoo
d on the capital steps and talked of war. Senator Max Cleland, a war veteran, talked of finding peace. Zell Miller said just “bomb the hell out of all of them.”

Near the end of the week, my photographer and I stood outside the National Cathedral in Washington. Inside, a memorial service was held. Hundreds of citizens stood on the sidewalks outside, uninvited, yet far from uninvolved. They listened to the service on hand held radios. Billy Graham offered words of comfort and warned "we may be mad at God. "

People were still in shock, yet they listened as the band inside struck up the Battle Hymn of the Republic. Individually, without any urging, the citizens on the sidewalk began to sing. Not loud, not with vigor. More of a calm, sedated singing of the unofficial American anthem. Yet, singing none the less: "Glory, Glory Hallelujah! His Truth Is Marching On"

Photographer, Tony D’Astoli shot video as I talked to weary citizens. We quickly realized everyone we spoke to was crying. It was the song. The emotion of the melody. The shock. The pain. The loss.

They cried and I cried. And as we talked, I turned to my photographer and he was crying.

Reporters may not cry, but I can assure you photographers damn well never cry.

But not on this day. Not in the shadow of 9/11 with the Battle Hymn from an earlier war sung on the streets of a nation under attack.

That is the moment I remember most of the aftermath of the attacks of 9/11 2001. A funeral service for a country, when a couple of journalists, who are trained to buck up, broke down.

Dale Russell


Anonymous said...

Rock on Dale!

Anonymous said...

I hate to say it, I too cried after watching the first tower collapse. My heart is out for all who lost loved ones. NYPD and NYFD personell deserve America's everlasting thanks for getting so many of the victims out alive. It was a near miracle that we only lost 3000 citizens in the attack. My feelings during that day and week were a jumble of conflicting thoughts and ideas. I didn't regain my mental balance till the next week-end when I went camping with a lot of good friends who felt much the same and were willing to talk about it. Keep 'em flying guys!

Anonymous said...

Dale you are a good ole human being just like the rest of us and we thank you for all your coverage and for your support of us in the DeKalb Police Dept. We all cried that day and that week, everyone except the cowards who did the deed. Keep up the good work.