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‘I Saw The Signs New York City Closed’: CBS4 Journalists Reflect On Covering 9/11 Terrorist Attacks

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MIAMI (CBSMiami) — September 11, 2001, strikes an emotional chord for many people, not only for the families of nearly 3,000 innocent victims who perished that fateful day, but also for the journalists who rushed out to begin covering the story that changed America forever.

“We were told to head to the airport and catch a plane and go to New York,” recalled CBS4 photojournalist Manny Alvarez. “When we got to the airport. There were no flights. I called the newsroom and they told me to start driving. From there, we never made it to New York, we ended up in DC at the Pentagon. But we stayed there for three weeks doing live shots from a gas station.”

It’s been twenty years since terrorists flew two planes into the World Trade Center and it played out on live TV.

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“I see a rash of people running over to the TV area of Kmart. And I ran over, and I was thinking, wow, maybe there’s more pictures of the incident,” said CBS4’s Lisa Petrillo. “And as we’re standing there talking about how sad this was, the second plane hit.”

The terrorist attacks and the ensuing chaos played out before smartphones and social media; This story unfolded primarily on television.

“I was covering the Latin Grammy Awards in California, all these entertainment reporters, all of a sudden became hardcore news reporters. They’re talking about the one of the most horrific crimes in America,” said CBS4 photojournalist Rafael Murciano.

CBS4’s Ted Scouten was quickly called into action.

“I saw the plane hit the first tower and at that moment, I called the station and said, you know, ‘what are we doing?’” It was less than two hours later, I was on the road, heading up to New York City. It took us 26 hours to get there. The thing that really stands out is as we were driving on I-95, I saw the signs on the road saying, ‘New York City closed,’ which was really ominous,” recalled Scouten.

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“I have a habit of watching the morning news to see what type of stories I’m going to have that day. And I remember smoke coming out of the Trade Center and I thought it was a small plane and they thought they thought it was a small plane. But then when they started showing other camera angles and it was a huge plane that went in,” said CBS4 photojournalist Abel Castillo.

While we now know the attacks were planned by al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, it did take a while to figure it out.

“Back then trying to sort it out and put it all together, and being a news person and so on, okay, you know, what’s this all about? What’s the motivation here? And it took a while to figure out that somebody or a group of people had stolen some airplanes and crashed into those buildings. In America where we value life, is sort of out of out of context for us. You don’t crash airplanes into buildings and kill a lot of people, that’s just not part of us,” said CBS4’s Hank Tester.

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The tragedy unified America.

“Every time I hear the national anthem, I actually get teary eyed,” said Ted Scouten. “That didn’t happen before, it was after 9/11. And it just as awful as it was what happened in New York that day. I think it brought out a lot of patriotism that’s lasting pretty much for all Americans.”

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