While driving back from work yesterday I was listening to “I’ll remember you” by Amy Grant, a tribute to WTC victims. It brought back the memories of that crazy night when I was still a sub-editor, trainee at The New Indian Express (TNIE) in Hyderabad.
I was 4 months into my training and still learning to get over the uneasy feeling every time I entered the Desk (editing section). Generally I was put in the peak shift between 3 pm and 9 pm. Even though the shift used to start on a relaxed pitch but by 6 pm it used to pick up momentum and by 8 pm it used to reach a crescendo when everything around you cease to exist. Before leaving for work, it became a habit for me to say a silent prayer that the evening should pass without any event.
On Sept 11, 2001, the evening seemed to be usual and I was able to finish Page 9 after few last minute changes. Page 9 is the second most important page after Page 1, where usually either news items related to Page 1 or Page 1 “continuation stories” are carried. Relieved, hungry and tired, I was ready to call it a day. Around 9.20 pm, my edition in-charge walks in after a quick meeting with Resident Editor and announces, “World Trade Centre is attacked and we’ll have to re-do the edition.” We all rushed to the TV and watched with disbelief as the terror unfolded.
We threw our bags and started rummaging for the latest stories as news started pouring in from the news agencies all over the world. For a second it felt like the shift had just started. Discussions begun around new page layout, bigger pictures, victim stories, eye-witness stories, nation’s and state’s reaction. Generally, stories are selected by a senior and a trainee’s job is to edit and place it on the page. But looking at the urgency and shortage of time, I was asked to shortlist few stories by going through the ever increasing number of stories that started to flood in. This was one of those times when there’s no time for your copies to be reviewed and you cannot afford to make a mistake. Otherwise also, this is one profession where there is no scope of correcting a mistake. You are in no control once newspapers hit the streets. The last 4 months taught me the style and feel of TNIE. For some reason, I perform better whenever I’m pushed to the wall. This was one of those days. The next 2 hours felt like few seconds. It was 11.45 pm when I finally emerged out of the office but the night was far from getting over. As I strolled out on the empty street to get some fresh air, I heard the TV blaring out the live telecast of WTC crumbling from every household.