Remembering September 11


I recall 9/11 as it if was yesterday. I happened to be watching The Today Show. I recall seeing the second plane hit. The sinking feeling in my stomach, I can still feel, and tears still come easily. It was clear – America was attacked. It’s something I just never thought I would experience. I phoned my wife at work – after all, she worked in a downtown high rise, and there were already rumors about the John Hancock Building, and the Sear’s Tower. She had just been told to leave her office. Walking to the train to pick her up, planes were still in the air. And I truly thought one could come down. Greeting my wife, I might have broken a rib, I hugged her so hard.

I began to make calls and send emails to people I knew in New York City. A story was already formulating in my mind. When I was in the office, the pets were all attached to my wife, who was in another room. I am telling you, they knew something was wrong – very wrong.  My wife learned a colleague of hers was in one of the towers and may have perished.

The next day, I began using my cell phone and somehow reached someone at FEMA who gave me phone numbers for dog handlers.

He said there would be no way to get through. Eventually, I did get through. I was the first to interview dog handlers at Ground Zero and at the Pentagon. I wrote some pieces for my Tribune Media Services newspaper columns, and this account was for Dog World Magazine.

My Dog World editor Beth Adelman, who lives in New York, was so moved by one dog handler, Chris Christensen, she got to know him.

Plaque mailed to me following the passing of a hero at Ground Zero, a canine hero named Sevus. I will never forget the conversations I had with his handler, Chris

When Chris’ dog Servus passed away several years later, Chris sent me a plaque. I have it hanging my office.

Among the 9/11 related stories – a piece on the “comfort dogs” brought in to help grieving families. A good idea? Not completely. I wrote this for my newspaper column, as well as this version for Dog World.

In all, I wrote lots of pieces, and hosted several emotional radio broadcasts – actually speaking live on-the-air with handlers at Ground Zero and the Pentagon. I won a boat load of awards, which is nice – including one from Editor and Publisher for being the national newspaper Feature Writer of the Year in 2001. But, of course, this is no way to win awards. I still cry when I think about Chris’ description of the sights and smells at Ground Zero.

This is a piece I wrote five years after 9/11 for my Tribune Media Services newspaper column. And here are more, now familiar images.