Sept. 11, 2001 is engraved in my mind.
I was woken up by a call from Herald Journal managing editor Charles McCollum: “Turn on the TV. A plane just crashed into a building in New York!”
For the next hour, I was glued to the screen. It began sinking in that this wasn’t a terrible tragedy but a planned terrorist attack.
The next thought for a news person: We need to let the readers know. Most would have seen the events unfold on TV, but as a print medium the Herald Journal could bring perspective on the developments.
A quick call: “Charlie, I’m coming into the office right now.”
I’ll be there, he replied, we need to put out a special edition for the readers.
We did, trying to make sense of the insanity of the day. Our efforts won the HJ statewide awards for design and news presentation.
As news people, we try to keep our views neutral. Opinions are for the editorial page and the columnists. Reporters and copy editors do their best to present just the facts. But the events of 9/11 pulled me into becoming a public speaker and face for the Muslim community in Logan.
Charlie agreed I should speak publicly, and I ended up representing Cache Valley’s Muslim community at an interfaith forum at Logan High School.
After the event, some people stopped by to speak with me. They sought better understanding, and I had to tell them I was as stunned as they were.
Muslims found only kindness and understanding among the wider community. Some people stopped by at the Logan Islamic Center to offer help and shelter for those who were worried about their safety. They assured the Muslims that they were not being blamed for the murderous actions of the terrorists behind the attacks of 9/11.
Thankfully, Cache Valley remained peaceful both for the wider community as well as for the Muslims living there.
My son and daughter, who went to Hillcrest Elementary, never encountered an unkind word or gesture. Their friends remained their friends, perhaps because of the innocence of youth and also quite likely because the other children did not hear untoward talk from their parents and elders.
Over the months and years, the United States got involved in wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Osama Bin Laden, the mastermind behind 9/11, was killed some years later by a U.S. special military team. Those actions dominated the news, as did the loss of life among our troops and among civilians in faraway lands.
The American public gradually and eventually began to tire of our long involvement and started questioning the purpose of sending our troops there.
I moved with my family to Florida in June 2003, but as a copy editor and wire news editor I continued to closely monitor developments.
The U.S. involvement in Iraq is over and our role in Afghanistan is almost at an end (it is Aug. 30 as I write this). There have been some gains and many losses in the course of the wars. The rise of the Islamic State group and the Taliban, the many splinter groups of extremists, the untold atrocities perpetrated by them … after some time, the mind becomes numb.
But 20 years later, the memory of 9/11 remains seared into my memory.
Saleem Syed-Ali was a wire news editor for the Herald Journal from late 1997 till June 2003, when he moved to St. Petersburg, Florida. He and his wife, who worked for a time for Herald Printing in Logan (which has no connection with the Herald Journal) became grandparents last year and moved in late August to Texas to be closer to their granddaughter, daughter and son-in-law. Their son retains the love for the mountains he first felt in Logan and now lives in Denver.