I like to celebrate Earth Day and take the opportunity to remind myself to take better care of God’s creation and do what I can to help.
The last 5 years I’ve gotten a free tree, either from the NASA Earth Day celebration or my city’s celebration. This year I missed both, one because I’m no longer a NASA employee and the other because I didn’t know about it time to go. Each year I want to get the free Target tote but I never make it before they’re all given out (although special circumstances allowed me to get one last year). So I wasn’t really sure how to “celebrate” Earth Day this year. I contemplated taking “green” steps like starting a simple compost pile or making a rain barrel, but for now both of those ideas are on hold.
So in lieu of my usual traditions, the boys and I planted flowers. I let them each pick a few packets of seeds at the local home improvement store and we used some old clay pots that were recycled/rescued from the side of the road. It wasn’t much but felt good to at least play with dirt. We also stepped up some of our recycling efforts as I’ve gotten a little lazy lately and not been as diligent with a few items.
How did you celebrate Earth Day?
Today is one of those days where everyone remembers where they were — where they were when the first plane hit, where they were when the second plane hit, where they were when the towers fell.
I was at work, still in the newspaper industry back then. We had just broke from our morning meeting, going over the details of what would be in that day’s paper, other things we were working on, etc. Our education reporter, who sat caddy-corner behind me, was doing an interview for a “where are they now” valedictorian story. The woman she was interviewing lived in New York City. Reporters across the room were working on the overnight police news. I believe I was writing about the night before’s city council meeting.
News of the first plane crash came over the wire and word spread around the newsroom. There was talk — oh my, what happened, how could that happen, where do we put it in the paper, etc. — and one of the sports guys turned on the TV in the sports department to get the latest. Hearing the commotion and curious, I stood around the TV, with several others, watching the news coverage when wham! the second plane hit. I, like so many who watched that second plane hit on live TV, was shocked at what I saw. What?!? I couldn’t make sense of it. What was actually happening — terrorists attacking America — never entered my mind.
I was naive.
“Terrorism” was not a word I encountered all that much back then. That was something that happened somewhere else, in other countries, not at home.
The seasoned writer who sat on the desk next to me said very matter-of-fact that this was obviously a terrorist attack.
A “terrorist attack”? What is that even? I remember looking at him all confused like and asking, “terrorists? really? how do you know?”
I feel so ignorant having been so naive then, but I had never been exposed to anything like that. I had heard, of course, about the Oklahoma City bombings and recalled an earlier attack on the World Trade Center and a bomb at the USS Cole. But those were car bombs (or boat bombs), not airlines full of people being used as bombs. Who would fathom such a thing possible?
The rest of the morning and day gets a bit blurry. After the second plane hit and everyone realized this was no longer a random accident but now the story of the day, the editor called us all together to come up with a new plan for that day’s paper. Assignments were made — call the mayor, call the local military base, go to the corner coffee shop and get local reaction. And remember that education reporter on the phone with the valedictorian in New York? That became our lead story because now our “where are they now” hometown hero was on the front lines of a major terrorist attack on America. All of this unfolded between 8 and 9 a.m. at a paper that was to be printed and on racks by lunchtime. Our staff bustled to get as much local reaction as we could round up, and by lunch our readers had the latest from New York but also the initial reactions from our city. We came out with a second edition a few hours later and worked the rest of the day on 9/11 related stories. It would be several days and weeks before we would return to any of the stories we had been working on that morning.
There was a run on gas that day and that was one of the stories passed along to me — go to the gas station and talk to people about their reactions to the day and about the run on gas and the apparent price gouging.
Even as young and naive as I was, I quickly figured out that Sept. 11 was my generation’s Dec. 7, another “day in infamy,” the kind of day that when it comes around every year you remember where you were “when.”
Originally published Sept. 11, 2010.
On the @USATODAY Twitter feed this morning was the headline “Dale Earnhardt: 10 years after crash killed NASCAR star.”
Really? I thought. That was 10 years ago already? I remember, I had just started at The Times-Mail and ….
I did the math and realized it was 10 years ago this month, Feb. 5, 2001, that I took my first full-time writing job. I’ve been writing “professionally,” that is being paid to write, for an entire decade, for one-third of my life.
I remember the Dale Earnhardt story distinctly because it was my first exposure to community journalism. I had been taught how to do community journalism and how to localize a national story like that in journalism classes, but I had never seen it done in real time. I was a such a novice back then, roughly two weeks on the job when Earnhardt was killed. But I recall the other seasoned writers leaving the newsroom and going to places where people hang out, particularly places were people who are into NASCAR hang out, and asking them their reaction. I remember the photographer and a staff reporter covering a memorial tribute that was held in the community.
Earnhardt’s death was the first time I witnessed localization, and The Times-Mail did an excellent job at that. Over the years there, I would contribute to many a story where something happened on the national or state level, and the front page story we produced wasn’t that Earnhardt had died or that the towers had fallen but the reactions and responses of the people in Bedford, Ind. The Times-Mail taught me how to do that, amongst other things. It’s The Times-Mail that gave me a handful of space-related assignments about its hometown astronauts Gus Grissom, Ken Bowersox and Charlie Walker and about students going to Space Camp that resulted in the clips I used to land my current job writing for NASA. The paper gave me a great start in my career as writer, believing in a fresh college graduate and shepherding her into becoming a bona fide writer.
It’s really hard to believe I’ve been doing this ten years. I felt so inadequate when I began, and often still do. But there must be something there or people wouldn’t continue to pay me to do it, right?
I wouldn’t trade it for any other career in the world. I am extremely grateful for the writing talents God gave me, the honing of those talents by my college professors, co-writers, and editors, and the opportunity to do this thing that I love.