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From Canyon To Cove: Post 9/11, we look over our shoulders

September 08, 2011|By Cindy Frazier

Where were you when you learned that John F. Kennedy had been assassinated?

I was on an elementary school playground in Ohio that had gone suddenly quiet, as we watched one of our teachers slowly sink into a swing and begin to sob uncontrollably. We all looked at each other, trying to comprehend her grief, adding our tears to hers.

Many things changed that day in 1963.

There are other seminal moments in U.S. history when the impossible, the unthinkable, happened before our eyes. The assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. The assassination of Robert F. Kennedy. The Kent State massacre.

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These were all part of a decade of unrest and social upheaval that expressed the anguish of a generation in the throes of an unpopular war and the seeking of civil justice for all races.

Yet all these events, traumatic as they were, now seem to pale in comparison to the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the Pentagon, the World Trade Center and United 93, which crash-landed in Pennsylvania and was presumably headed to the White House.

I was awakened that morning around 6:30 a.m. by a call from a colleague at a local paper I worked for in Los Angeles. LAX was one of our beats, and one of the hijacked planes had left from there. It was a local story, even though the events were taking place 3,000 miles away.

I turned on the TV and immediately got on the phone with my mother in Connecticut, and together we watched the second tower come down on live television. It felt comforting to not be alone at that moment, but I didn't have words to explain what was happening.

I have a lot of cousins on the East Coast. One cousin-in-law said he would have been working near the World Trade Center had he not been laid off the day before. He would have been one of those fleeing the choking dust and watching as the enormous buildings fell. One of my brothers just happened to visit Coney Island that day and watched the shocking conflagration from across the river.

Another brother lives in the Washington, D.C., area, and from his window he could see the flames from the attack on the Pentagon.

By the time I got to work, around 9 a.m., we had changed our coverage plans and began seeking out anyone with a first-person story to tell.

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