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AL DÍA's Colombia team reflects on 9/11. Photo: Getty Images.
AL DÍA's Colombia team reflects on 9/11. Photo: Getty Images.

Three generations of journalists remember 9/11

There is hardly a person in the Western Hemisphere born before 1990 who does not remember something about September 11, 2001.

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The impact of the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon was not only massive but it also happened live in front of a global TV audience. Perhaps that is the reason why we all have a memory of that day. 

In Colombia, from where these lines are written, we also experienced the anguish and disbelief of what happened that morning. 

Television became the bearer of the news and the images of the smoking towers seemed to be taken from a Hollywood movie, but narrated in real life. 

The staff of AL DÍA News in Colombia is made up of journalists from three generations, some who were already in the field in 2001, others who were still studying, and others who were barely aware of what happened years later. 

These are their stories:

Fernando Millán

The attacks of September 11, 2001 caught us in the newsroom of eltiempo.com, in Bogotá. The first impression was that it was a plane crash and so the headline was: 'Plane crash in NY: plane crashes into WTC.' But it was terrifying when we saw on the TV screen how another aircraft crashed into the second tower.

What followed was to look for voices of Colombians in New York to tell us what was happening, in the midst of the chaos shown on television. The event also had an impact because of the number of Colombian families living in the city, fleeing from our violence or looking for economic salvation. Many things changed after what happened 20 years ago.

Juliana Bedoya

What happens to me about September 11 is what happens to many of my generation. I remember where I was and what I was doing. It was my first semester of journalism at the Javeriana University in Bogota. The 7:00 a.m. class was interrupted by the faculty chair who came to tell the professor that a small plane had crashed into some buildings in New York. The interruption was curious, as it seemed like an unremarkable event. 

When we left the classroom an hour later, dozens of students and professors were gathered in front of a small, poorly-tuned television, which repeated the images of the second plane crashing into the South Tower of the WTC. The conjectures and theories surrounding what happened were also repeated.

The news came in like gossip between classes. Those coming in told those going out what they had seen on the news or heard on the radio. We were all trying to put together pieces of a story without understanding that we were facing the event that would change the course of history.

Manuel Herrera

"Dude! A plane just crashed into the Twin Towers," was the greeting of one of my classmates when I arrived at university on September 11, 2001.

"Don't play with that," I replied, because he was one of the most clownish people I knew.

We walked eagerly to a nearby store, where live pictures of one of the towers filled with smoke were being shown. I couldn't believe it wasn't my friend's joke. The least we could do was to be late for our Communication Theories class, since one of the most important historical events of the new millennium was beginning to unfold before us, and the worst was yet to come. 

To our utter amazement, as we watched a second plane hit the second tower, we knew that the world had changed forever. Thousands of conspiracy theories went through our minds, from an alien invasion to an attack by Colombian drug traffickers protesting the extradition of a drug lord. Even today, we continue to find new images and stories of the first major tragedy of the 21st century, which we were invited to observe from the front row without notice.

Erika Ardila

In 2001, I was two years old and I don't remember anything about the 9/11 attack live. However, I do remember watching a video of the plane crashing into the second tower of the World Trade Center when I was nine years old, and it was at that moment that I began to understand what happened on 9/11.

Around 2008-2009 I started to look for more documentaries about what had happened, listen to survivors' stories on the Internet and talk to my classmates at school about it.

Moreover, every year in my school there was a small tribute to those who died in the attack, where they made representations of what happened and allowed us students to learn more about that historic event. 

What I remember most is when I went to New York in 2014 and went to the Memorial & Museum at the World Trade Center. There I could see all the names of the victims of the attack and it was a very special moment for me because I felt the pain of the lives that were lost that day.

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