The world as we knew it ceased to exist

Published 12:19 pm Friday, September 11, 2015

Almost everyone over the age 20 can remember where they were the day the World Trade Center’s Twin Towers fell 15 years ago.

It’s hard to forget a traumatic thing like that. Just like the folks of my generation remember where we were when John F. Kennedy was shot and our parents remembered where they were when Pearl Harbor was bombed or World War II ended.

My memories of that day are mixed with the shock and horror of watching the tragedy as it occurred, sadness at the loss of life, and a reminder that a reporter is never really truly off duty, even when he has the morning off.

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I was working with The Mississippi Press in Pascagoula at the time, and was taking the morning off because I had a night meeting and my editors were trying to keep me from going over my allotted 40 hours. I had taken my daughter to class at Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College in Gautier and was returning home when I heard the news of the first plane hitting one of the towers. I got home and turned on the TV just in time to see the second plane hit and responded with a four-letter word that is not allowed to be printed.

As I stood fixed on the activity going on from New York, my phone rang. My editor, Regina Hines, was on the other end asking me whom to contact at Naval Station Pascagoula and what is now Huntington Ingalls Shipbuilding (I covered those areas).

“Regina, do I need to come in,” I asked as soon as she finished.

“No, we’re all right,” she said.

An hour later, she called again with another question. I asked the same question, “Do you need me to come in?” I got the same answer, “No, we’re fine.”

Two hours later, she called again. This time, I was told, “You’d better come in.”

When I arrived at the paper, I was greeted with the words, “Call your veterans (‘my’ veterans) and see if you can get any comments.”

I don’t remember what meeting I covered that night. I don’t remember if I even went to it or if it was postponed. I do remember spending hours on the phone and getting very lucky.

A group of local VFW members I knew was in Washington, D.C., when the Pentagon was attacked and gave me their story. A former commander of the naval station had been assigned to the Pentagon and was in the building (on the other side) when the plane hit the building. Both generated great eyewitness stories to the panic and confusion that reigned in the Nation’s Capitol.

The effects of 9/11 have stayed with us long after the attack in all forms of laws, policies regarding air travel and just an overall sense of paranoia.

Shortly after the tragedy, singer Alan Jackson wrote a song, “Where Were You When the World Stopped Turning,” which I believe is the best song written about the tragedy. I use it to describe what happened to me after Hurricane Katrina.

The song is right on point. On Sept. 11, 2001, our world as we knew it did stop turning, and it’s never been the same.

About John Surratt

John Surratt is a graduate of Louisiana State University with a degree in general studies. He has worked as an editor, reporter and photographer for newspapers in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post staff since 2011 and covers city government. He and his wife attend St. Paul Catholic Church and he is a member of the Port City Kiwanis Club.

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