Star editor-in-chief remembers night of Sept 11
One of my reporters Darren Coyne was yelling down the phone to me at 11pm.
“Turn the TV on, turn the TV on!”
It was September 11, 2001 and the planes had just flown into the twin towers in New York City. Channel 10 was broadcasting live.
Within minutes, Darren and I were on our way to the Goonellabah offices of The Northern Star. We had our own printing press in those days so I knew that if we could get this story in before midnight we’d make the next day’s paper. It was only as I drove in from Tregeagle that I realised I was still in my pyjamas.
As I rushed into the office I was greeted with one of the proudest moments of my career. Three of my staff were already there – having heard the news and rushed back to the office to pull apart the paper and ensure the biggest story in the world that year was covered properly for Northern Star readers. They are true journos, I remember thinking.
Debbie Schipp, Lisa Zanardo and Nick van Kempen had already started sorting through the scant details coming over the “wire”. Ian Monaghan turned up soon after. With Darren and I, we had a band of six and the most willing and co-operative press crew we could have hoped for. We all instinctively knew how important this was.
The clock ticked. The details kept unfolding. Another plane. Crash landed. The Pentagon. Osama bin laden. Anti-globalisation protests. The towers collapsed. Dozens dead. Hundreds dead. Thousands dead.
More than once that night we had to overcome our own shock and bewilderment and bring our focus back to the duty of piecing it all together. I remember being astonished with the speed at which our wire service partners, AAP and Reuters, worked.
The paper was finished before 1am. We had eight pages of coverage wrapped around the original edition. It was one of only a handful of newspapers in Australia that carried the world-changing story the next day.
Several hours later I crawled into bed, dealing with the conflict of pride in what we had just achieved as a newspaper and the distress of what had just happened to the world.
We have not been the same since.
● Dean Gould was editor-in-chief of The Northern Star 1998 to 2002, during which the paper twice won the Newspaper of the Year award.