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The Second Plane Hit, And All Doubts Vanished

Neal Conan

'This is NPR' is honored to share personal accounts of 9/11, in the voices of our journalists who covered the events as they unfolded. Here, Talk of the Nation host Neal Conan remembers the blur of wall-to-wall coverage in the first few weeks after the attacks.

I vividly remember what a beautiful day it was – on a run before work, the temperature was delicious, the sky an impeccable blue. By the time I got to the office, and despite the fragmentary information, this was clearly a major event.

I knew those buildings – I'd done stories on them as they rose, on the innovative kitchen services that supplied the various restaurants. I'd interviewed Port Authority officials in their offices with grand views of the harbor. I'd eaten at Windows on the World.

Then the second plane hit, and all doubts vanished.

The Talk of the Nation staff had the great good fortune to spend a couple of hours to prepare, and we hit the air at noon that day from Studio 3A, stayed on 'til 4PM, then came back at 10PM as the All Things Considered crew wound up, and then Scott Simon relieved me at one in the morning. We sustained that schedule for two weeks, I think, but Scott managed to get away to New York.

I was so busy and so tired, that the impact didn't hit until I stood in my kitchen, on a Saturday morning, it must have been the 22nd, listening to an amazing piece that Scott did from New York, my coffee mug shaking in my hand, and tears flowing for the first time.

People ask what I remember from those first few days, and I think you might understand that it's mostly a blur – except for the calls we took on the late night shift, many from people stranded when air traffic closed down, who rented cars or U-Hauls to drive home, and searched the lower end of the FM band to stay in touch. I still feel a special bond with those listeners, as we reached out to each other across the loneliness of the night and the open spaces of a world remade.

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