Twenty years ago, I was 22 and working as a newspaper reporter at The Times Herald-Record in Middletown, N.Y. in the Hudson Valley. The morning of Sept. 11, I was getting ready for work and the “Today Show” was on in the background. For a short while, it was an ordinary day, until we all saw the breach of the north tower.
If there was any thought of a mistake, that was quickly erased when the second plane flew into the south tower. When I got to work, everyone in the newsroom was huddled around the television. We stood stunned and silent. No one had any idea what the casualties would look like.
We did know, however, that many residents, including a host of firefighters and police officers, commuted into the city each day. There stood to be a tremendous loss of life.
There was. In the weeks following, it was all hands on deck. Every reporter was assigned to funerals and memorials. We also wrote pieces that reflected on the lives of those missing.
I’ll never forget meeting with Robin Freund, the widow of Lt. Peter Freund of the NYC Fire Department. Lt. Freund, who was 45 at the time, was a member of Engine 55 in Little Italy. It was the third to arrive on the scene.
Robin said that Lt. Freund was thinking about retiring and had plans to start as a substitute teacher. His children were ages 9, 11 and 12, and he had a stepson who was 24.
The Monday that Lt. Freund went into work was the last day his family saw him alive.
I remain forever grateful to have had the chance to learn more about Lt. Freund, and so many others who perished that day. For me, their stories are a poignant and constant reminder that each day is truly a gift.
— Roberta McCulloch-Dews, Hinsdale
Photo credit: The twin towers of the World Trade Center burn behind the Empire State Building in New York, Sept. 11, 2001. In a horrific sequence of destruction, terrorists crashed two planes into the World Trade Center causing the twin 110-story towers to collapse. (AP Photo/Marty Lederhandler)