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STEVE BARTLETT: Memories of 9-11 never fade

These planes were among the literally parking lot full of jets that were landed and parked at St. John’s International Airport following the multiple attacks on Sept. 11, 2001. File/Telegram
These planes were among the literally parking lot full of jets that were landed and parked at St. John’s International Airport following the multiple attacks on Sept. 11, 2001. File/Telegram - File

The 18th anniversary of the 9-11 terror attacks on the United States passed a few days ago and I remember that period of my life like it had just happened.

That morning

The attacks occurred on my second day as editor of The Express, a now-defunct weekly in St. John’s. My friend, Paula, called that morning to tell me about the first plane hitting the World Trade Centre. She called 30 or so minutes later to tell me about the second. Like everyone else, I didn’t have a clue what was going on and, at that time, I was laser-focused on trying to meet an early evening deadline as well as the content standards of my predecessor, an excellent journalist named Rob Antle.

The planes

A short time later, we started getting reports of planes being diverted to airports across Atlantic Canada. We still had no clue what was actually happening, but it was obviously something significant, so we wrote a story about the 21 planes on the local runway.

That night

Thinking I had passed the first deadline test, and still unaware of the deep significance of the terror attacks, I headed to George Street to celebrate a personal milestone and soon found myself drinking beer with some of the plane folk. Some worried about loved ones in the U.S., others were blown away by the hospitality, and more than a few were anxious about boarding a plane after what had just happened.

The next day

By the morning of Sept. 12, the world had more details about who was behind the attack and of the intricate plan behind it. I remember feeling a strange unease. The world had changed significantly. I walked into my first meeting that morning as editor and faced fire from an angry colleague from another department. He didn’t think we had enough 9-11 coverage in that week’s paper. The meeting was less than 24 hours after the first plane hit the Twin Towers. I thought we had done our best given our deadlines and what we knew at the time. He felt differently.

The Leafs

The Toronto Maple Leafs were supposed to land that Tuesday and hold training camp in the city. With North American air space shut down, the team couldn’t get in. And the stadium where they were to train was now a makeshift shelter for thousands of the stranded passengers. We focused on covering those who were stranded and what they were experiencing. The Leafs eventually landed, played an intra-squad game, and a pre-scheduled exhibition game against the Montreal Canadiens. I photographed the game for the paper. A bright light during a dark week.

Postscript

The Leafs held their training camp here again this past weekend. I attended as a fan this time and lined up at 6 a.m. Saturday with my son for tickets to practice and scrimmage. I found myself thinking about 9-11 a lot in the early-morning line. Eighteen years have passed. The world is very different. The resulting War on Terror has claimed so many lives. How did 9-11 contribute to the rise of right-wing populism? … Deep thoughts when I should have been in a deep sleep. Leafs practice was thrilling. My son was completely blown away, not by stars Auston Matthews and William Nylander, but by a speedy unknown named Nicolas Robertson. My boy kept raving about the player and pointing towards him. So, I looked him up on the program. Attaching no deep meaning and chalking this up as odd coincidence, guess when Robertson was born? Sept. 11, 2001.

Steve Bartlett is SaltWire Network’s senior managing editor. He’d like to hear your memories of 9-11? Reach him at steve.bartlett@thetelegram.com.


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