...and then it wasn't!
It was a beautiful, sunny morning. A perfect day for Primary Day in Boston.
I remember getting to the newsroom around 8:00am and no one being around. We had dispatched reporters and crews to cover polling centers around Boston. Then incumbent Boston Mayor Tom Menino was running for a third term and all seemed status quo.
I turned on the newsroom's television monitors - often tuned to the Today Show and CNN, respectively, and walked to my desk and turned on my computer. (That would ironically be the last time I would be at my desk that day.)
Around 8:55am, I heard CNN's Aaron Brown reporting that a small plane had crashed into the North Tower of the World Trade Center. I couldn't see the monitors from where my desk was and took my time to get up to what Aaron was talking about. At that time, the Supervising Producer and Associate Producer walked into the newsroom. We all stood in front of the monitors and pontificated on "what" the hole in the North Tower could be:
"Not a small plane" someone said.
"That looks more like an explosion" said another.
The conversation probably went into other directions as we steadily stared at the aerial shots of the tower showing a large, black hole with smoke trickling pouring out over the Manhattan sky:
"The people...there's definitely going to be some fatalities" was uttered.
The understatement of the day.
9:03am on live television, United Airlines Flight 175 flew directly into the South Tower.
Someone screamed. Someone gasped. My knees buckled and I fought for air.
I got myself together enough to make my way to a phone - not losing eye contact with the monitors - and called my father-in-law.
"Go get the kids from school."
"Why?" he responded.
"Something bad is happening and I need you to go get the kids and keep them until you hear from me again."
Little did I know that it would be 24 hours before anyone would hear from me.
The next several minutes were spent calling reporters and photographers to shift focus to the news in New York.
I watched as large pieces of debris fell from the World Trade Center towers. The closer I looked, or the closer the cameras focused on the "debris" the more it became painfully clear: I was witnessing people making the final decision in their lives - leaping from the open windows to their death.
9:37am - American Airlines Flight 77 crashes into the Pentagon.
10:03am - Reports of another flight heading to Washington, D.C. crashes in Pennsylvania.
10:50am - 220 combined floors of the north and south towers were now crumbled pieces of steel and metal; smoke and rubble.
I had never witnessed such destruction in such a short period of time and I fought back my tears and the urge to walk out of the newsroom forever.
Staff started gathering in the newsroom and we collectively spent the next several hours not fully grasping what was happening but scrambling to cover every minute of what was happening.
There was yelling. There was arguing. There was uncertainty, rage, and fear. We were, after all, human first.
We thought about our loved ones. We thought about who we knew in New York, Virginia, Pennsylvania and everywhere else. We took bathroom breaks, not to relieve ourselves, but to cry. We didn't eat. We didn't laugh. We didn't feel human. It was a moment that no one had prepared for nor understood how to behave or work, for that matter.
Our world was different. Our lives were different. We knew this defining moment - as protected as we were in our little newsroom - was changing who were were as journalists; as people; as Americans.
We went on the air that night and did two hours of live television where we re-played the horror we had spent the previous 11 hours watching over, and over, and over, and over, and over.
9pm - I called, "fade to black" - a term we use to end a show and let master control know our show is over- and confirm we are "clear" from live air.
I walked out of the control room and outside to the scene dock, fell to my knees and bawled. There was little noise so I made up for the silence that was looming outside of our television station.
Most if not all the employees had left for the day several hours earlier, so it was me, on my knees, in profound grief and completely inconsolable.
Then an arm touched my shoulder, lifted me up and hugged me until the last tear came out. It wasn't until I gently pulled away and saw who it was: our business manager Hillary. We never really interacted or spoke on even a monthly basis, more or less a daily one, but it was her that provided a comfort that no one gave to me that horrific day. There were no words exchanged. There were no words - as CNN's Aaron Brown had said earlier that morning. Just simply the embrace of two unlikely souls who were able to share the sorrow of the worst day they ever had.
I got home around midnight. I don't remember eating. I don't remember speaking to any member of my family or friends. I didn't put the television on. I laid on my bed, clothes and shoes on, and let my eyes fade to black.
The next several weeks are a blur to me: night after night of live television; press conferences; stories of people looking for their missing loved ones; body after body being pulled from the rubble; heroes and victims; conspiracy theories; and piecing together profiles of the individuals who were responsible for what would later be described as the deadliest terror attack on American soil in U.S. history.
For me, I will never forget how that beautiful, sunny morning began and how in the end, it all faded to black.
May we never, ever forget. I know I won't.