The September 11th attacks may have taken place in New York City, the Pentagon, and a field near Shanksville, Pennsylvania, but the events of that day impacted communities across the country, including right here in western Massachusetts.
Cynthia Simison, the current Executive Editor of The Republican, was working in the newsroom on September 11th, 2001. Simison joined Zydalis Bauer to reflect on what it was like to cover a story of that magnitude locally and how we continue to honor the lives lost and those impacted by this day.
Read the full transcript:
Zydalis Bauer, Connecting Point: The September 11th attacks may have taken place in New York City, the Pentagon, and a field near Shanksville, Pennsylvania, but the events of that day impacted communities across the country, including right here in western Massachusetts.
Cynthia Simison, the current Executive Editor of the Republican, MassLive, and El Pueblo Latino, was working in the newsroom on September 11, 2001. She joined me to reflect on what it was like to cover a story of that magnitude locally and how we continue to honor the lives lost and those impacted by this day.
Cynthia Simison, Executive Editor, The Republican: I was actually on my way from an appointment in Westfield, so as I arrived, it was just after nine o’clock, so the first plane had struck. We knew that.
And everyone is, I remember, was literally glued to the TV screens. It was a, you know, I think it was reflective of all of us, everywhere, whether we were at work or home or school. The enormity of it was like, what is going on and how is how is this happening?
Zydalis Bauer: As you mentioned, we were all glued to the TV during that moment, no matter where we were. This is nationally, and I’m sure internationally, everyone was watching this event as it unfolded.
How do you cover a story of this magnitude on a local level?
Cynthia Simison: Well, the thing that happened in our newsroom was I got an email from a friend in Westfield that somebody I knew and this person knew, was in the building that day. It was Dan Trant, who worked at Cantor Fitzgerald. And I shared it with a co-worker, Tom Shea, who had known Danny from the sports world — he was a basketball player. And that’s when it kind of struck a lot of us that there could be other people we know, there could be other people from western Massachusetts that are being impacted this day.
Zydalis Bauer: Back in 2001, we don’t have the same access to information at our fingertips as we do today.
What was it like to be that lifeline of information to this region of the events of that day as they were unfolding?
Cynthia Simison: You bring up a major aspect to this is that not everybody had cell phones. I mean, thank goodness for those families who were able to capture final moments with their loved ones. But, things just weren’t that readily available.
So,the internet was fairly new. The concept of of online news was still in its infancy, in a way. So, the printed newspaper was really — delivered the news in the home. At the same time, people were watching the national news on TV.
Zydalis Bauer: So, now looking back two decades later, are there any stories or images that really have stuck with you after that day that impacted the communities locally, either directly or indirectly?
Cynthia Simison: You know, I think each one of us has some image that’s iconic, that’s moving. That’s tragic.
That’s, you know, I like to think — I tend to be a positive person. So, you know, in talking to our editors here, quite frankly, I look to that photo of President Bush with his arm around a firefighter, the American flag, being a positive “we will endure.”
Zydalis Bauer: And as somebody who was working for the media that day and continues to do so, how did this event change your perspective and what did you learn from it in your position?
Cynthia Simison: Not sure it changed my perspective, but it’s a reminder that, you know, and in many ways, all news is local. Just like all, politics is local. That you never know who might have been in that building.
I mean, we had fully 20 or more people — 20 or more families– whose lives were changed forever, right here at home. And then we had first responders and other good people who got in their cars or trucks or as units went to help with the search, went to be present at the funerals of firefighters and other first responders. I think it speaks to the kind and caring communities that surround us.
Zydalis Bauer: I know that MassLive/The Republican are working on a special series to commemorate this day. Talk to me more a little bit about what you’re planning on doing.
Cynthia Simison: Well, the series, it’s running over the course of eight days and our editors conceived it as a way not to just document what happened that day, but to share the legacy and what’s happened in the interim 20 years, whether it be to the families who were affected or — and a piece that will be publishing this coming Sunday on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and how a whole other group of families, our lives, are being impacted. And veterans,and and were it not for 911, they would not be there, you know?
So, it has a continuing effect on all of our lives.