Tom Ross' column appears in Steamboat Today. Contact him at 970-871-4205 or tross@SteamboatToday.com.
Find more columns by Tom here.
Steamboat Springs The Sept. 11, 2001, edition of Steamboat Today was unremarkable except for John Russell’s photograph of two trapeze artists with the Circus Chimera spinning high above a local crowd.
All of us now know too well how abruptly our lives would change on that sunny day.
Our newspaper already was in the racks and looking inappropriate when the first of two hijacked jets slammed into the north tower of the World Trade Center in Manhattan.
The Denver Broncos had rallied to defeat the New York Giants on Monday Night Football the evening before, but no one cared any longer.
As soon as our stunned staff gathered in the newsroom that fateful morning, we began making plans to do something we’d never done before. Under the direction of then-editor Scott Stanford, we would hustle to write stories based on local reaction to the terrorist attacks and crank up the printing press to put out a special afternoon edition of Steamboat Today.
It’s a step I’m certain we wouldn’t take today. If, God forbid, there was a recurrence of an attack of that magnitude on our homeland, you would read about it first online.
To be sure, the newspaper had a Web page in fall 2001, and we updated it daily. But neither the newspaper staff nor our readers were as attuned as we are today to pushing a stream of news, images and videos to the Web.
Instead, we cranked out an eight-page newspaper section under the headline “America Under Attack,” put it on the street and immediately began working on Wednesday’s newspaper.
I would be disingenuous if I didn’t acknowledge that in some instances it felt awkward for our reporters to be asking city and county officials for their takes on the terrorist attacks. The molten images on our television screens seemed so removed from the Yampa Valley, and we felt so powerless to respond. Yet, we all needed to share our thoughts and reactions as a way to process the horror we had witnessed.
“As Americans, we squabble amongst each other, like a family does. But in the presence of an external threat, we stand together,” former state representative Al White observed.
Routt County Commissioner Doug Monger agreed that Americans respond well to adversity.
“You don’t know the depths of people until they dig in with something like this and perform,” he said.
Former school superintendent Cyndy Simms urged families to draw closer together.
“We encourage parents to spend some time with children to talk together about what has happened,” she said.
So much has changed in our world since 9/11: The Earth is a smaller place and our economies and currencies are bound together more than ever before, yet we’ve remained at war for the entirety of the decade since 9/11.
With global changes have come new ways to disseminate news and opinion that also have the power to launch political movements. Social media played a role in the Arab Spring revolts that are effecting change in that part of the world in ways that invasions could not.
And the printed extra edition of Steamboat Today remains in our archive as a lasting reminder of how life, and America’s security, has changed in the 21st century.
Let us never forget that grim September morning in 2001, and let us always recall those who have sacrificed to make us safer as well as those who perished in the attacks on our society that we continue to struggle with.
To reach Tom Ross, call 970-871-4205 or email tross@SteamboatToday.com