9/11 and why bad news matters

We all saw it.

The low swoop of the plane and then it was gone. We saw the explosive flame engulf the cloud of smoke, the ash raining down on people even five blocks away.

We saw the close-ups of those on the ground running for cover, the tears pouring down the corners of their eyes, leaving a stream-like trail on their ash-covered faces.

I was only 11 when I heard the bad news: two planes had hit the Twin Towers in New York City on Sept. 11, 2001.

That day we went home with no homework . Our Grade 6 teacher told us we’d know why when we turned on the news when we were home.

And she was right.

I saw replay after replay of the first plane hitting the North Tower and then the unexpected second hit on the South Tower. I knew this was huge, that this was a terrorist attack and that I should be concerned for those in and around the area, but I’m not sure I understood why the coverage was so huge.

I understood that travelling to and from the U.S. – and many other places – would be different after this, that airport security would change, but I was still only 11 years old. The magnitude of this event wasn’t exactly tangible for someone who had just broken up with her Grade 6 boyfriend and considered that bad news.

But in the 10 years since the planes hit the Twin Towers, my perspective of the stories and pictures of what I call a “not-so-natural disaster” has changed.

Not only do I now look at those same pictures and stories of the 9/11 attacks with more sympathy for those affected by it, but I have looked at those same stories in more depth, wondering if we, here in Atlantic Canada, have ever experienced anything quite like that.

Enter journalism.

In Grade 11, I was part of a group anthropology project on hope and loss. My portion of the project involved making a video. I decided to interview people my age and talk about the natural and not-so-natural disasters in our lifetimes and how that may have have affected us.

At the time, Swiss Air Flight 111 that went down off the coast of Peggy’s Cove in 1998, Hurricane Katrina that hit New Orleans hard in 2005 and the terrorist attacks in New York City on Sept. 11, 2001 were the hot topics.

After directing, producing and editing what I soon called an eight-minute mini-documentary, I became extremely interested in how everyone copes when disaster strikes.

And after I watched the final video product about eight times, its message became so clear – journalism was for me.

For many, including myself before Grade 11, journalists don’t always give off the best impression. We’re often misunderstood, sometimes screw up, and drawn to conflict and the negative.

But after doing that video five years ago, I realized why something like 9/11 makes the news even on its 10th anniversary – and why I’m writing my column about it today.

The bad news always makes the news – no matter how heartbreaking it may be – because it matters.

And no matter how hard that is, whether we want to hear it or not, it’s necessary, because the world can be a scary place, and sometimes the best way to come to grips with those nightmarish images is to talk about it.


For more, read Features editor Lauren Bird`s account from when she was in New York City 10 years ago. Also read about what a few St. Thomas students believe our world has changed because of September 11, 2001. 

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