TV News Reflects on 9/11/2001: CNN’s Soledad O’Brien and ABC’s Cynthia McFadden

By Merrill Knox 

With the 10th anniversary of the 9/11/2001 terrorist attacks approaching, TVNewser reached out to anchors, reporters, producers and executives for their thoughts on that day, and what they believe has changed in the last 10 years.

CNN’s Soledad O’Brien, who worked for NBC News as weekend co-anchor of “Today” in 2001:

I was pregnant with my daughter Cecilia, and I was taking my dry cleaning out. I looked up and I saw a plane slam into the World Trade Center — I lived downtown at the time. Everybody on the street stopped, and I thought, a small private plane — the pilot must have had a heart attack, and the plane hit the building. All you could see was the smoke. So I took my stuff to the dry cleaner, and then I went back home and turned the TV on. And then you could see, it was much worse.

NBC assigned me to go to Chelsea Piers, where the ambulances were. My sister, who is a surgeon, was dispatched there as well — we were talking a lot. I called my doctor and he said “the baby will be fine, but that stuff is very bad for you to breathe in.”  So we got masks and we stood with the ambulances. And then you realized two hours later those ambulances weren’t going anywhere. And you realized how bad it really was.

I remember it being so quiet. You look around and you think — is this the world you want to bring your kids into? And yet, like the people of 9/11, the city came back. Children grow, people get better, people are remembered — hopefully in the right ways — memorials are built, buildings are repaired. It’s a story of recovery, of moving forward.

“Nightline” anchor Cynthia McFadden:

It’s funny the things you remember.  I remember so vividly walking to the office on the morning of September 11, 2001, and thinking that the sky had never looked more beautiful.  It was a brilliant, vibrant blue, the dawn of a perfect fall day.  My three year old son was to start nursery school the next morning.

I was in early, well before 9 am.  Devon Binch, my assistant at the time, got a phone call from a young friend who worked downtown. Something awful was going on at the World Trade Center. She wasn’t sure what. We snapped on the TV. Within minutes WABC broke into programming with news of the first plane hitting the tower. I called our news desk. At that point we still thought it was a small plane, a tragic mistake. Mimi Gurbst was running the desk then, she asked me to head downtown with a crew. The second plane hit as we got in the van. We could see the smoke. As we got closer we passed people walking north, dazed, covered with ash. Police stopped our truck, refused to let it go further south. We walked. Much of the next 48 hours is a blur. I do remember they canceled the first day of nursery school. It is funny what you choose to forget.