Like most of us, I’ll never forget Sept. 11, 2001.

I stared at the television as those planes crashed into the World Trade Center.

I stood there shocked that our country was under attack.

I felt angry.

I was scared.

And just like many, I called home to make sure everyone was OK, especially my father who at the time was working in Washington, D.C.

But those feelings couldn’t last for long. I had a huge task in front of me. I had a newspaper to put out. And it had to be a great one.

While I can’t say that any newspaper particularly looks forward to disaster, we’re very aware that during horrific moments — and Sept. 11 would surely classify as one of those times — newspapers have a responsibility to shine. They have to supply the public with information that’s sure to have an impact on their lives. And they have to be there to document the history.

Sure, we document history every day, but when things like the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks occur, that account of history has to be top notch.

All of those thoughts were going through my head five years ago, this Monday. Add on the fact that it was my second day on the job in my first managing editor post and this 23-year-old newspaperman at the time, probably looked like a deer caught in headlights.

But I did what I knew to do. I gathered the troops, formulated a plan, agreed with the publisher to print a special section of all local Sept. 11-oriented content and started pounding the keyboard.

The small staff I was managing in Huntsville, Texas, worked around the clock, just like probably every newspaper staff in the world was doing that day.

We sought stories on how children, parents and veterans were coping with the attacks. We talked to blood donation centers, travel agents and high school football coaches on the impacts that their groups were feeling through the attacks.

We ran photo pages of images that today still have a lasting impact on me today.

We did all the things a newspaper should do. And as I walked out of that newsroom in East Texas that next morning, I knew — even during what many would classify as extremely difficult times — our staff had put together one of the best edition’s that newspaper had ever seen. We had to. The public was depending on us.

It felt good. And it wasn’t because my staff just put out an award-winning edition, but because the public the next day would be greeted with information and stories about people in their community that mattered to them.

Journalists have to separate themselves during the most difficult times. And they do it for one reason — their readers.

I wish on the evening of Sept. 11, 2001 that I could have been at home with my family and friends. But I knew I had something greater to do that night. I had stories that had to be told. I had information that the public had to receive.

That’s a newspaper’s job and it’s one I take very seriously.

Contact Gazette Managing Editor David Arkin at 282-2311, Ext. 2241 or by e-mail at

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