EXCERPT: 20 years on, 'The Falling Man' is still you and me

Smoke rises from the burning twin towers of the World Trade Center after hijacked planes crashed into the towers on September 11, 2001 in New York City. Associated Press photographer Richard Drew talks about AP’s coverage of 9/11 and the events that followed.

FAIRMONT — It wasn’t the initial report of a plane crashing in New York City that truly shocked our country. The first stories to come out were vague. Some reports said a small private plane had crashed, and sadly, this wouldn’t have been the first time we heard of a plane crash. We were worried, but also thinking during those first few minutes that it was a mistake, pilot error.

For a short time as we tuned in to learn more, we were still safe. We weren’t yet sick with shock, and for those few minutes, we still didn’t know what it felt like to be attacked by terrorists on such a large scale.

In the minutes that followed, the floor fell out from under every American. Our world turned upside down as we watched the second plane crash. Then we began to hear about other crashes — one at the Pentagon and another in a small town in Pennsylvania.

The chaos that ensued enveloped every American.

Whether we knew someone in New York or at the Pentagon or on a domestic flight, we all sat stupefied. Even today, 20 years later, it is a singular event that every American who was old enough at the time remembers with absolute clarity. There are few events in any person’s lifetime that cause such scarring.

The 9/11 attacks dealt a permanent blow to the collective insouciance of Americans. But, as we’ve been saying for 20 years, we will never forget.

To reach Lori Riley, email lriley@timeswv.com.

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