I walked into the newsroom after 9 a.m. Sept. 11, 2001. The newsroom assistant, Gloria Jackson, immediately told me that something terrible had happened in New York City. Other employees were gathered near the television that hangs above the newsroom. It was the start of a long day.

As the morning progressed, the events in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania were rapid and dramatic. Planes crashing, buildings falling. Everything was blatant, but nothing was understandable. Air traffic throughout the country was stopped. The financial markets closed early.

Journalists don't have time to ruminate. I barely had time to feel the emotion of the moment.

We quickly determined we would not do an extra edition that day, based on a variety of factors. In retrospect, I wish we had, but it didn't seem feasible at the time. So little was known about what had happened and why.

We set out to do the best job we could finding out how this huge story was playing out in South Georgia. The staff and I met quickly and brainstormed some story possibilities: Moody, the airport, schools, security measures. They then set out to find the stories and photos.

We dramatically altered the space inside the Sept. 12 paper, doing away with certain features to make sure we had room for wire and local stories. We ended up with six open pages inside for the stories, photos and graphics. Thirteen of the stories were locally written.

The challenges that day included trying to determine which wire stories to choose for the paper. Seemingly hundreds were available, and they kept changing through the night.

Everyone on the staff did a great job, and made the deadlines as well.

The next day, I received this e-mail from one of my fellow department heads at the newspaper.

"I told my staff this morning that if there has ever been a day they can be proud of The VDT, it is today. Our editorial department did an excellent job in covering one of the most tragic days in our history. Our readers benefited. We gave them a timeline of the day, and we told what the events of the day mean to them in South Georgia."

It meant a lot to me, especially because I had been editor for only about five months.

Today and continuing through Wednesday, readers of The Valdosta Daily Times will find coverage of how this important anniversary is being recognized and remembered here and elsewhere.

Everyone here is especially proud of a 12-page special section you'll find inside Wednesday's paper. "A world changed" has some wonderful features written by outstanding journalists such as Leonard Pitts and Dave Barry, and some great photographs.

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As my family looks back at Sept. 11, 2001, television's initial images will not be their first memory.

We didn't get cable television until Sept. 12 because I had spent the first few months in our new house trying to decide between cable and satellite television. With the help of many videos and Playstation, we survived without network television.

But on Sept. 11, the power of television hit home. We accessed news by Internet and radio. We would have to wait a day for the haunting images that would be replayed endlessly.



Ron Wayne is the editor of The Valdosta Daily Times. He can be reached at 244-3400, ext. 229, or e-mailed at ron.wayne@gaflnews.com.



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