On the Side| Brad Hicks

 As I sat in my office at the paper in north central Iowa, working to put the final touches on what would be that week’s edition, one of the staff members mentioned in passing that a plane had crashed into one of the World Trade Center twin towers.

In my mind, I pictured a small plane being swept by winds into the side of the building, something that had happened previously.

“No,” my co-worker said. “It was a big plane.”

I called my wife. She watched the television. At some point, I bolted the 10 blocks home to do the same for a brief stretch, just to get a view of what was happening.

Our paper normally went to press on Tuesday afternoon, so we had a few hours to put something together.

The circulation manager, on her busiest day as we had more than a dozen press runs in our plant, combed the subscriber lists for people from New York and New Jersey who might take our paper. The folks who were long-in-the-tooth were asked to think of families that might have members there. Within in an hour, we knew of several people who lived in the territory and we spoke with their families, but we were unable to connect with the actual residents – communications were down. But we had a story with local connections.

In town, the local churches mobilized, and a prayer service was scheduled for noon at one church. Almost 150 people attended, with just 90 minutes notice. We covered it, and a photo of people in prayer graced our front page, not a photo of hateful destruction.

Press time came, and we had our snapshot of the day, as it impacted Hampton, Iowa.

Of course, news doesn’t stop when the presses quit rolling. Our driver returned from delivering the paper to the post office and said there was a traffic jam near the junction of two highways in town. There were two gas stations there and cars were lined up for several blocks in several directions, their drivers concerned that a battle with the Middle East was pending and that gas prices were about to spike, or that perhaps gas would become less available. 

Over the next week we spoke with the transplants from our town and county about their experiences they had in the Greater New York City area on Sept. 11, 2001. Some knew people who were missing. Some knew people who worked at the World Trade Center but weren’t at their office that day. All were asked if they would consider leaving the city in the wake of the destruction, but none bit on that notion. They had jobs, friends, kids in school – those things which are not easily surrendered. Back in north Iowa, flags flew at half staff. Iowa and Iowa State were to play a football game the following Saturday in Ames, but it was delayed until the end of the season. For a couple of weeks, there were no jet contrails in the skies, as the government grounded civilian air travel. Church attendance rose.

Fifteen years later, 9-11 has its own meaning, our world is different, and our battle against the forces of evil that struck that day are ever-present, waiting for us to quit paying attention. Our sustained vigilance is required.


Brad Hicks is the editor and publisher of the Red Oak Express. Contact him at publisher@redoakexpress.com

The Red Oak Express

2012 Commerce Drive
P.O. Box 377
Red Oak, IA 51566
Phone: 712-623-2566 Fax: 712-623-2568

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