by Mark Hertzberg
Director of Photography
The Journal Times
The Day started as a gorgeous September morning. I was out for my morning bike ride, hoping to get 15 miles in before work, when I ran into a biking buddy who listens to a Walkman as he rides, around 8 a.m. Central time. He asked me if I'd heard that terrorists had crashed a plane into the World Trade Center. Dick's a guy who delivers jokes with a deadpan expression, and I was waiting for the punch line ... there was none.
I'd only gotten five miles in, but I told Dick that I had to get to the office immediately. We were just a half mile from the newspaper, a half mile I covered with more urgency than usual.
The newsroom was virtually deserted except for the features department. We started calling people in and I called the editor at home and checked with the city editor at his house.
The publisher came into the newsroom and I asked him about the possibility of publishing an Extra edition. I'm sure I wasn't the only one who raised that question. Some of our key production peoplewere in Chicago, 85 miles away, at a trade show I was scheduled to go to two hours later.
The publisher consulted with the circulation and production departments, and the decision was made to publish an eight page, ad-free Extra with a 1 p.m. press start.
I felt a little odd looking at the wire, calling people - doing all the normal things - in my bike clothes, but so be it.
I called Ron Kuenstler, one of our staff photographers, who was on another assignment and asked him to immediately go to Mitchell International Airport, the Milwaukee airport, to get some pictures there, and I called Greg Shaver, our other photographer, and asked him to go to the local University of Wisconsin campus with a reporter. I called Geoff Krieger a college student who strings for us, and asked him to take a look at the smaller Racine airport which was shut down, as well, by FAA order.
Ron was on days, Greg on nights, but shifts were irrelevant because we called everybody in to work except the sports department.
The feature department started taking some of the responsibility for page layout for the Extra even as the sleepy night copy editors came in.
At 9:30 I hopped on the bike, went to the courthouse to shoot a photo of deputies assigned to guard the building, and then biked home (two miles) to change and get my car.
We were all on auto-pilot, seeing horrible images on our computers and on television, but we had a job to do. As soon as the last pages left the floor, headed for the pressroom, reporters, photographers, and copy editors met in the conference room where we ate sandwiches that had been brought in for us and discussed the coverage we'd need for the next day's regular edition, just 12 hours from press start.
Looking back, it looks like a seamless operation, like something we'd done 1000 times before. It wasn't. It was a grueling, draining day, but we filled a need in the community judging from the sales figures reported by the circulation department for the Extra and the next days' papers. Ron's picture of a woman praying the rosary at Mitchell Airport was selected as the photo of the day by the state AP bureau.
Our only glitch was with the AP. We routinely transmit news photos to them as soon as they are scanned in to our system, regardless of whether we have published them or not. We had five or six photos to send early in the story, but the FTP connection to the State Photo Center was not working properly, and so we had trouble getting our pictures out.
I have family in New York, and I couldn't get through to them for hours that awful Tuesday. None work in the financial district, so I held my breath and didn't worry. My brother finally called me from Florida, where it turned out he was, rather than in the city, on business.
In addition to my responsibilities as Director of Photography, I am a columnist. This is the piece I wrote about the attacks and their aftermath. It was published September 19.
Life as we thought we knew it ended forever when our nation was attacked by terrorists Sept. 11. Though we went to bed that night hoping that when we woke up in the morning the nightmare would be gone, we knew that it would be with us forever. We will mark time in our lives with that horrible day as a benchmark. "Ground Zero" is now part of our shared vocabulary.
Survivors looked as if they were coated with volcanic ash; a pale, sickly color that coated their skin and hair. Their faces bespoke an unspeakable horror.
We knew that thousands of others were dead, some vaporized by the fireballs, others who jumped to their deaths to escape the fire, and others who just couldn't get out of their burning, crumbling inferno.
There were many dinner tables that night with empty chairs around them.
There were empty police, rescue, and fire stations, their men, women and their rigs burned and crushed in the rubble.
There were cars sitting in commuter parking lots, waiting for drivers who would never return.
There is a skyline that no longer looks like the one on souvenir post cards.
There are horrific images from that day that we'll never forget, photos that are etched in the history part of our minds like those of the Oklahoma City bombing and the Challenger explosion, horrible images that we've seen over and over and over and over again.
When is it too much to keep looking at those images? Or is it ever too much so that we'll never forget what happened that God-awful Tuesday?
We want to find blame, we want to kick butt, we want to bomb somebody because that will make it right.
But it won't make it right except in the short-term in that someone, somewhere has to pay for what he did to all of us.
We aren't fighting an enemy like we were when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor or when the
Germans overran the rest of Europe. This is a more insidious foe, a slippery way of life that is couched in the extremists of one of the world's major religions.
Our enemies are people who believe they have a holy mission to destroy our nation and our way of life.
They rejoice in the greeting Allah will give them in Heaven in exchange for their martyrdom, though they are sadly misguided in their belief since the murders of innocent people and their suicides both go against the teachings of Qu'ran.
Our nation has pulled together, like no time since the assassination of President Kennedy, even more than during the Gulf War or after the Oklahoma City bombing. People of every color, of every nationality, of every religion are coming together in America. They are praying, crying and hugging together, and flying the red, white and blue every place imaginable.
These attacks have brought us together, but there's a danger in what's happening, too, as the blame is focused on a Saudi national, hiding in Afghanistan. It's like the order to put Japanese - Americans in camps after Pearl Harbor.
Some radio commentators were calling for a bold message to be delivered with a bomb within hours of the attacks before anybody knew anything. The last time that happened was after a white U.S. Army veteran named Timothy McVeigh blew up the Federal Building in Oklahoma City, and Middle Easterners were immediately targeted and pulled in for questioning.
Three people called up the Dover flag shop last week asking for "a Middle Eastern" flag to burn.
Anybody with dark Asian complexion, Afghan, Egyptian, Indian, Iraqi, Jordanian, Pakistani, Palestinian, Saudi, whatever, is branded Middle Eastern and "the enemy" by people like the man who berated a Union Grove merchant who is from India. This makes as much sense as lumping the British, Dutch, French, Germans and Italians together as "Europeans" when they fought each other in World War II.
There is a world madness that will not end no matter how many bombs we drop. There are thousands of displaced Palestinian refugees, some of whose have been living in camps for 50 years, and until there is a Palestinian homeland and a shared Jerusalem, there will be no end to this the madness. Pakistan may work with us in seeking retribution against Osama bin Laden, but that opens the fragile Pakistani government up to the kind of fanaticism that took hold in Iran and the fanaticism that the Taliban, whom we supported during the Russian invasion of Afghanistan, have imposed in their own country. If Pakistan's government is toppled because of a U.S. attack on Afghanistan, there could be war between Pakistan and India, two countries with nuclear arms. We face an endless, horrible, no-win scenario, no matter what we do.
There is no rational justification for this latest attack on anything red, white, and blue by those who have undertaken their Jihad, but there is more to worry about than just hoping for a swift, brutal and understandable retaliation. There is no single, easy answer that can comfort us and make it go away forever.
Many of us went about our business this past weekend, 900 miles from Ground Zero, and things
looked normal, but there was a heavy pall that hung over all of us because many things that were
normal a week ago don't exist anymore.
Who knows what the future will bring as the aftermath of these terrible events unfolds? After all, who would have guessed after Pearl Harbor that in 2001 we'd cheer as we saw Old Glory flying proudly even from German- and Japanese-made cars on American streets?
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