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September 11, 2011

Twice-told tale resonates after all these years

You know how it is when you're telling folks a fascinating story and all you see are weak little smiles, glassed-over eyes and the slow-yet-impatient nodding of heads?

Then, there's that sinking feeling as it gradually dawns on you that you told the very same story to the very same people just the other day ... and they're too polite to mention it.

As your audience drifts away at the first opportunity, you realize that you have turned into a bore, one of those people you have always tried so hard to avoid.

That's how I felt as I began to write this column about the 10th anniversary of 9/11 from the perspective of The Daily Star newsroom.

I had re-read our coverage from the edition of Sept. 12, 2001, taken some pretty erudite notes and had my new first paragraph all but composed in my mind.

Then I realized that I had told the very same story before, almost word-for-word in a column I wrote for the special section we published one year after the attacks.

At the risk of being a complete _ rather, I guess, than incomplete _ bore, but also realizing that even my most devoted readers do not commit all my scribblings to memory, I hope I can be forgiven for plagiarizing myself by repeating some excerpts from what I wrote on that first anniversary:

"The morning of Sept. 11, 2001, found me -- appropriately enough -- at a funeral.

"I had, of course, seen television coverage of the airplanes hitting the World Trade Center before attending the funeral of a friend's daughter.

"St. Mary's was packed, and naturally, before the service began there was some talk about the attacks on the twin towers. But once the ceremony started, I didn't think about anything except the funeral.

"That was the last time that day the tragedy that was to become known as 9/11 was not at least subliminally in my thoughts. It occurred to me that our newspaper had the toughest job -- and as editor, I had the toughest job -- in Oneonta that day.

"How could a small community newspaper do justice to such an epochal event?

"I've talked to editors at other papers about that day, and have heard the same thing from all of them.

"In kind of a warped, crazy way, Sept. 11 was almost fun.

"Please don't misunderstand. We felt the same emotions everyone else did on that terrible day. It's just that like firefighters who hear an alarm bell, newspaper people on a big story get a rush of adrenaline.

"The bigger the story, the bigger the rush, and this was the story of the young century. There would be time to mourn after deadline.

"Watching the continuing television coverage at one interval during that day, I turned to one of our younger reporters and asked her a rhetorical question.

"'Could there possibly be anything you'd rather be doing on a day like this than working for a newspaper?'

"Of course, there are no "days like this" that compare to Sept. 11."

Now, a decade later, there are still no days that compare with Sept. 11, 2001. On a wall in my office is a framed copy of The Daily Star's front page from Sept. 12.

I'm still immensely proud of that day's paper. The cooperation of our Advertising, Circulation, Composing and Pressroom departments was outstanding, as was the leadership of then-publisher Dan Swift.

The unsung hero of the day was now-retired Managing Editor Cary Brunswick, who worked brilliantly with our reporters and photographers to produce no fewer than nine local stories to go with our wire service coverage.

That young reporter I mentioned now teaches journalism to college students. Reporter Tom Grace retired just last month, and photographer Anita Briggs, then-Community Editor Lisa Miller and Brunswick still do some freelance work for us.

But several of the newsroom people responsible for that incredible newspaper are still working here. Denise Richardson, Mark Boshnack, Julie Lewis, Denielle Ziemba, Dean Russin, Rob Centorani, Johnna Nesteruk and Deb McCaffery continue to ably serve our readers.

I'm still around, too.

Among my many memories of that horrific Sept. 11 was one phone call that a decade later can't help but give me pause. After two airplanes crashed into the World Trade Center, another in a field in Pennsylvania and one into the Pentagon, the television networks quite naturally had nothing on except news of the riveting events.

One of our local residents called The Daily Star.

"Why," she demanded to know, "isn't the 'Judge Judy' show on the air?"

Sam Pollak is the editor of The Daily Star. He can be reached at spollak@thedailystar.com or at (607) 432-100, ext. 208. His columns can be found at www.thedailystar.com/sampollak

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Cary Brunswick

Chuck Pinkey
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Lisa Miller

Mark Simonson

Rick Brockway

Sam Pollak
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