PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) — September 11, 2001. Almost everyone who is old enough to remember knows exactly where they were and what they were doing that day. At WAVY TV, it was another day at work and the 9/11 terrorist attacks were a story our news team had to figure out how to cover.
Here’s a look back at how 10 On Your Side covered one of the biggest news events in a lifetime.
WAVY’s Don Roberts had just finished anchoring the morning show when the first plane crashed into the north tower of the World Trade Center in New York. He was sitting in an edit booth.
“Had the monitor on NBC’s Today show, Katie Couric popped up. Looked kind of serious,” recalled Roberts.
“When I walked into the newsroom, everybody was looking up at the monitors and they were stunned and it was complete silence — which is unusual for a newsroom,” remembered Chief Photographer Jeff Myers.
“The responsibility of the job we had kicked in,” said Roberts. “Who do we call to find out what’s happening at Norfolk Naval Base, or Langley Air Force Base, or Oceana? We got calls from Hampton because jets were flying out of Langley Air Force base left and right. It was crazy.”
A team was quickly sent on the road to New York City. Hijacked airliners had crashed into the North and South towers, which would later collapse.
Then another plane hit the Pentagon.
Andy Fox and photographer Rob Rizzo immediately got in a car and headed for Washington.
“The amount of media that was there when you pulled up, there were cameras and tripods and lights, both directions all over the place,” remembered Rizzo. “You walked up this little hill, where all the cameras were on this hill, and then you saw the Pentagon. And you could see where the plane went in.”
“We had a news conference that night because the Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and the rest of our government wanted to show the bad guys that’s it’s business as usual in America,” said Fox.
Fox and Rizzo walked into the Pentagon with the other media, fires still burning from the crash.
“I just remember getting off the bus and the soldiers with their rifles,” said Rizzo. “When we walked in the Pentagon, the smell of fuel just hits you.”
“The smell. It, like, burned my throat,” said Fox.
Fox was able to ask Rumsfeld a question during that press conference.
“Mr. Secretary, what do you say to the American people who may have questions on how something so coordinated could have been carried out against the nation? What do you say to them who might not have confidence that our intelligence and our security are what they should be?” Fox asked.
Rumsfeld replied: “I say to them that the president of the United States will be making some remarks to them this evening.”
“The first day was kind of, like, overwhelming,” said Rizzo. “We’re gathering and just trying to get stuff on air. But on the downtime, I just went outside and I just looked and looked at the Pentagon.”
“I don’t think there will ever be anything quite like it,” said Myers. “There’s hasn’t been anything since then. and we hope that there never will be again.”