Sussex County Delaware
Recalling Sept. 11's
Life-Changing Events
Sussex Snapshots -- Sept. 5, 2002

NOTE: Kerin Magill is Content Editor of Sussex County Online. Her column, "Sussex Snapshots", appears each Thursday on this site.

SC Online Editor
Kerin Magill, Sussex County Online

The one-year anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks is bearing down on us whether we're ready for it or not. I don't know about anyone else, but I'll be glad when that particular anniversary has come and gone.

Like the assassination of John F. Kennedy, it's one of those times we all remember where we were and what we were doing when we heard the horrible news.

Many of us were either at work or preparing to go to work when we heard. It was a Tuesday, which meant I was getting ready to leave my home for a Sussex County Council meeting in Georgetown.

I had CNN on the television, as I do most mornings. Something in the tone of the news anchor's voice made me stop what I was doing and turn my attention to the television, where I saw video of the World Trade Center with smoke pouring out of it. Then, moments later I watched with millions of other people as the second plane sliced into the side of the other tower.

By this point I had called my husband and told him he had to see what was going on. And like most other people, I knew it was no accident. At some point before I left, news came of a fire at the Pentagon.

Somehow I got in the car and drove to Georgetown, all the while frantically trying to find out from my mother if she'd heard anything about the Pentagon. A cousin of mine works there.

In the County Administration Building, the county council seemed hesitant to go on with its scheduled meeting. Yet the meeting did go on, with updates on sewer projects and the never-ending readdressing project, the ongoing airport renovation and proposals for road improvements. Every few minutes a television cameraman, there to cover the meeting, interrupted with updates he received on his pager.

The council cancelled its afternoon session and sent employees home. By the time I left the council chambers, we were all scrambling to complete what work we could and get home to our families. I was a reporter for a weekly newspaper then, and had a deadline to meet.

A fellow journalist left to get his infant daughter from her day care center, which was closing early. Many of us learned our children were leaving school early. When my reporter friend returned with his chubby little baby, the rest of us nearly smothered her with attention, glad for the distraction from the horrible events on the TV.

All I could think about was how I was going to explain the day's events to my six-year-old when she got home.

Then, just before I left work, a fax came across from our company's main office. It gave details on an advertising campaign in which businesses were to buy ads surrounding an American flag, in support of our nation. Part of the proceeds were to go to the American Red Cross, but there at the bottom of the fax was a figure representing the profit the company would make from the campaign.

I could write a book about what happened next, but let's just say the boss didn't exactly want to hear what I had to say about the patriotic ad campaign. The campaign was dropped, I'm happy to say, but I learned that freedom of speech doesn't extend to those of us working under corporate dictatorships -- even at newspapers.

The following week, the County Council opened its meeting with Director of Assessment Eddy Parker singing "God Bless the U.S.A." Council members also voted to give $11,000 to relief efforts in the wake of the terrorist acts and a resolution "Condemning the Cowardly Acts of Terrorism" was read into the record.

Regarding the ill-fated ad campaign, after a couple months, you'd figure a normal adult would have moved on. So I was especially floored when the boss showed up one day and confronted me. He spoke to me as if I were a naughty child. I was told in no uncertain terms never, ever to do that again. Or else.

Not terrorism, certainly. But cowardly, without question.

Just as I was amazed at the grace and courage displayed by some of our nation's leaders, I was dismayed by the efforts of so many companies to use the attacks as a marketing tool. Remember all those ads cajoling us to buy cars because it was the patriotic thing to do?

Much has been written about how Sept. 11 changed so many of our lives. I didn't know anyone who was killed or injured in any of the attacks. But one of my co-workers had a cousin who was injured at the Pentagon. My own cousin was also at the Pentagon but was not injured.

A dear friend recounted how she huddled in her pantry after the jet bound for the Pentagon flew extremely low over her Arlington, Va. house seconds before it crashed. My brother in Ohio told me the plane that eventually crashed in a Pennsylvania field was spotted near his home that morning.

My spirited, independent first grader couldn't go to sleep at night without someone in her bedroom.

I, a semi-liberal journalist-type, hung an enlarged copy of a quote from President Bush on my office wall. Here it is: "We will no doubt face new challenges. But we have our marching orders. My fellow Americans, let's roll."

We all have stories of Sept. 11. Mine is certainly insignificant. But did the events of the day change my life? Absolutely.

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