BNC Remembers September 11 & the Attacks That Changed America
In SummaryBNC is remembering the lives lost during the September 11 terror attacks on the 20th anniversary.
America was forever changed on September 11, 2001, when hijackers took four commercial flights with passengers to fulfill a plan of evil.
The terrorist attacks on that day left 2,996 people dead and the lives of many others forever changed, including several members of the BNC staff. With special coverage honoring the victims and responses to that fateful day, BNC hosts and staff reflected on where they were on September 11 and how that day shaped them.
Willard Ogan, BNC’s Managing Editor, was working in New York City on that day. While working for CBS News, he saw a plane strike the World Trade Center, but he thought it was a movie trailer at first. Once he learned of what was happening, he and a television crew drove down to the towers alongside a convoy of law enforcement officials.
Ogan also remembers the harrowing images of people jumping from the building, trying to escape the fire. He was on the ground near the buildings when they collapsed. He and his crew had to run as it fell and a cloud of smoke consumed the city.
What he witnessed that day changed his life and still makes him emotional 20 years later. Every year on September 11, he calls the photographer he worked with that day. “We’re pretty good friends. We’ve done a lot of projects together. Every year on 9/11, we call one another and we don’t talk. We just hold the phone,” he said as he began to cry.
BNC executive producer Maria Roach was working for the Oprah Winfrey Show at the time of the attacks, and she remembers the gut-wrenching duty she had of visiting the families of victims, asking if they’d speak on the show. She spent the next 72 hours interviewing people who had lost their loved ones in the attacks.
One of the first homes she visited was the family of a flight attendant killed. Originally, the victim’s children did not want to speak to the media, but she and her crew embraced the family. “We’d never met these people before, but we just embraced each other,” she said, holding back tears. “They sat down with me and for two hours, they sat down with me and gave the most beautiful tribute to their mother.”
Yodit Tewolde, host of BNC’s Making the Case w/Yodit, was a freshman in college. As she was getting ready for the first day of class, she had the news on and the sound of panic on the broadcast got her attention. “All of a sudden I’m hearing panic and I’m looking at the television screen and I’m seeing a plane go into a building,” she said. “I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. I didn’t know what I was seeing, and I turned up the volume and I just sat there in a trance.”
BNC host Charles Blow was working for The New York Times on that day. While walking through Times Square, Blow watched the attack on a jumbotron. He distinctively remembers the feeling of what he witnessed. “What I do remember is the feeling that I understood immediately that this was not a mistake. That America was under attack.”
After sending a staff member named Sarah to the scene to get footage, Blow remembers the panic he felt when the building collapsed and he was left wondering if she was okay. He later found out Sarah was one of the people covered in ash who fled the city across the Brooklyn Bridge.
Once he returned home, he spoke to his children and told them, “Some people had done a bad thing,” but ensured they’d be safe. Despite assuring his children things would be okay, he wasn’t sure of it himself. “I had no idea what was going to happen,” Blow said. “The only thing I knew is that everything that we knew had changed that day.”
Mike Hill, one of the hosts of BNC’s Start Your Day, has spoken many times about how September 11 impacted him as a native New Yorker and a person who served in the United States Air Force. “It was 20 years ago, but it’s something that will be etched in my heart, and my memory and my soul for the rest of my life,” he said.
Despite the tragedy he witnessed that day, Hill says the attacks showed him America’s ability to be united. He hopes the next time the country sees unity, it won’t be as a result of another mass casualty event. “I just pray that the next time we become united, it won’t be because of some tragedy,” he said. “Hopefully we can get the right things done and do the right thing and never forget what happened on that day and move forward to become a better nation.”
If you or someone you know is struggling from trauma triggered by this story, resources are available here.