GAIL WHITE Terror stuns a nation, and the coping just begins
I learned of the World Trade Center bombing while on an interview.
"Did you hear what just happened?" Kathy Orr asked as her husband, Lyle, and I sat talking at the kitchen table of their Boardman home.
"Two planes just crashed into the World Trade Center."
Silence filled the room.
When I arrived at The Vindicator, the conference room was crowded with staffers, watching the three televisions in horror.
Sights and sounds: The smoky rubble from New York City filled the screens, while news flashed on the bottom.
"The Pentagon was hit?" I asked, tears welling up in my eyes.
"About five minutes ago," a stunned co-worker said flatly.
Just then, the managing editor stepped in. "A plane just went down in Somerset County, Pa.," he told an editor. They rushed out of the room.
"My brother's a pilot," I told the woman next to me. I ran to a phone.
As the phone began ringing, a wave of selfishness swept over me.
Thoughts: The number 50,000 was flashing across my mind.
"Fifty thousand employees at the World Trade Center," the news announcer had said.
People like you and me, getting up, going to work, making a living, raising a family -- gone in the blink of one psychotic eye.
The reality of it was too much to contemplate.
Standing in the newsroom, I watched editors dispatching reporters and commanding copy changes; photographers rushing off to take pictures of sights they would rather not witness.
I was enveloped in a sea of helplessness.
There was nothing I could do -- except watch as horror after horror unfolded in front of my eyes.
More evacuations continue as I think of my children, sitting in their classrooms, perhaps completely unaware of the tragedies occurring in the world they will inherit.
Children: How do we reassure children during times like these?
My children were young when the Oklahoma City bombing took place. I had no explaining to do then. This tragedy will be different.
Questions will pour from their innocent minds. They will insist on answers. I will not have any.
I remember the pit in the bottom of my stomach the day of Oklahoma City. Today, it is compounded with every newsbreaking event.
The terrorism taking place 500 miles away now took a local effect. The airports were closed. Planes were being checked. All federal buildings and the county courthouse were evacuated.
Outside, the sound of a police siren sent chills down everyone's spine. Where were they going?
A newsroom staff meeting was called. Flushed faces with teary eyes entered the room.
"Here's what's being covered ..." the editor began.
Task at hand: One by one, story angles and follow-ups were distributed. As each concept was brought to the table, one reporter after another raised a hand to cover it.
No one shirked; no one complained about the extra work.
It must be done. And in some small way, it was our way of serving in a time of need.
Later, listening to the television reporters, I heard a recount of the World Trade Center catastrophe.
"There was no chaos," the reporter said. "People evacuated with order." He went on to relate stories of people, covered in dust and debris, helping the injured and infirmed.
Making sense: For the first time all morning, I felt an instant of hope. The knots in my stomach loosened just a little.
This is tragedy for which we will not soon recover -- and will never forget.
But we will survive. The spirit of the citizens of this great country will overcome the destruction and the loss.
The perpetrators of these heinous acts will be found, though the punishment for their acts could never be harsh enough for the devastation they have caused innocent people.