Remembering 9/11 from the Marketplace newsroom


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    A hijacked commercial plane approaches the World Trade Center shortly before crashing into the landmark skyscraper on September 11, 2001 in New York.

    - Seth McAllister/AFP/Getty Images

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    Hijacked United Airlines Flight 175 from Boston crashes into the South Tower of the World Trade Center and explodes at 9:03 a.m. on September 11, 2001 in New York City.

    - Spencer Platt/Getty Images

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    Smoke pours from The World Trade Center after being hit by two planes on September 11, 2001 in New York City.

    - Craig Allen/Getty Images

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    One of the towers of the World Trade Center begins to collapse.

    - Jim Sulley/AFP/Getty Images

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    Pedestrians run from the scene as one of the World Trade Center Towers collapses on September 11, 2001 in New York.

    - Doug Kanter/AFP/Getty Images

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    Edward Fine covers his mouth as he walks through debris after the collapse of one of the World Trade Center towers in New York. Fine was on the 78th floor of 1 World Trade Center when it was hit by a hijacked plane on September 11, 2001.

    - Stan Honda/AFP/Getty Images

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    A firefighter breaks down after the World Trade Center buildings collapsed on September 11, 2001.

    - Mario Tama/Getty Images

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    This September 11, 2001 file photo at an early morning school reading event in Sarasota, Fla., shows then White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card informing former U.S. President George W. Bush of the attacks on the World Trade Center in New York.

    - Paul J. Richards/AFP/Getty Images

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    Firefighters make their way through the rubble of the World Trade Center in New York on September 11, 2001.

    - Doug Kanter/AFP/Getty Images

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    An unidentified New York City firefighter walks away from Ground Zero after the collapse of the Twin Towers on September 11, 2001 in New York City.

    - Anthony Correia/Getty Images

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    A satellite image of lower Manhattan shows smoke and ash rising from the site of the World Trade Center at 11:43 a.m. September 12, 2001 in New York City.

    - spaceimaging.com/Getty Images

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    Smoke pours from the former site of the World Trade Center in Manhattan on September 12, 2001 from a vantage point in Hoboken, N.J.

    - Chris Hondros/Getty Images

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    A U.S. flag flies from a television antenna on September 13, 2001 amid the rubble of the World Trade Center. The antenna was once at the top of one of the 110-story twin towers.

    - FEMA/Getty Images

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    Firemen leave the rescue area near the World Trade Center after their shift on September 13, 2001. ROBERTO SCHMIDT/AFP/Getty Images)

    - Roberto Schmidt/AFP/Getty Images

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    Part of the facade of one of the twin towers of the World Trade Center still stands as rescue and cleaning efforts continue on September 13, 2001 at the site of the terrorist-attacked buildings in New York.

    - Beth A. Keiser/AFP/Getty Images

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    People hold candles on the U.S. Capitol grounds during a vigil to remember victims who lost their lives following the September 11 terrorist attacks in Washington D.C.

    - Mark Wilson/Getty Images

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    A female mourner is lost in her own thoughts on September 13, 2001 in the Franklin D. Roosevelt Garden near the U.S. Embassy in London, where floral tributes were laid after the terrorist attacks in the U.S.

    - Sion Touhig/Getty Images

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    Well-wishers cheer as recovery personnel drive by on their way to the World Trade Center site following the September 11 terrorist attacks in New York City.

    - Mario Tama/Getty Images

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    American flags fly at half staff on the grounds of the Washington Monument in memory of the victims of the terror attacks in New York City and at the Pentagon on September 17, 2001 in Washington, D.C.

    - Alex Wong/Getty Image

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    Firefighters stand atop a fire engine with the flag-draped casket of fellow fireman Lt. Dennis Mojica on September 21, 2001 during a funeral service at St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York City. Mojica, who was with Rescue Company 1, is one of nearly 300 firefighters who lost their lives in the World Trade Center disaster.

    - Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Six weeks before the attacks on the World Trade Center, in July 2001, a public radio colleague broadcast a feature about an airplane hitting a New York skyscraper. It was a bit of history: a B-25 bomber struck just above the 79th floor of the Empire State Building in 1945, killing 14. Gasoline poured down the elevator shafts creating a fireball at ground level.

That was the first frame to come to mind when the news bulletin flashed the morning of September 11. Sara Harris, a production assistant at Marketplace, telephoned me shortly before 6 a.m. PST to tell me a plane had just struck the World Trade Center.

The frame of reference, of course, would radically shift almost immediately, amid the shock we often focus at the human level. A broadcaster since my early adolescence, I wondered about the safety of the transmitter operators running the antenna atop the World Trade Center's north tower. There's a plaque now at the public television station in New York honoring WNET engineer Rod Coppola who died in the trade center that day.

Within minutes, the Marketplace team was deployed feeding our morning programs. The New York bureau chief at the time, Bob Moon, narrated his eyewitness account of the second tower coming down. Amid the chaos of another city under attack, our Washington bureau chief, John Dimsdale, set to work to determine how policymakers were trying to safeguard the financial system. The commentary editor began tracking down New York-based financial historian John Steele Gordon to ask him to consider an essay for the evening's broadcast.

Beyond the interviews I conducted that day, it was also my task to draft what we call the "Show Open" for the broadcast, words that would frame our coverage of that historic day.

I remember toying with a line I recalled "The New York Times" columnist Tom Friedman delivering to an audience in Indiana. It was about people who want to hurt us around the world becoming especially dangerous through communication and computer technology. "Super-empowered, angry men," had been Friedman's warning.

I also remembered a conversation I once had with political scientist Benjamin Barber about his view of "McWorld vs. Jihad," a society driven by globalization and commerce coming into conflict with fundamentalism of all kinds.

Some people are surprised to hear I studied history as an undergrad. The implication: I would have been better served by business degree, given my professional beat. But quite often in the news business, history provides a very useful frame.

The Show Open I drafted for Marketplace that evening tried to encapsulate the story and capture a sense of the challenge ahead.

At 2 p.m. PST, 5 p.m. EST, a colleague pointed on the other side of the studio glass and I said: "Lethal acts of terrorism destroy New York's World Trade Center, damage the Pentagon in Washington, and close much of American for business today. Gone are assumptions about personal, national, and economic security."

About the author

David Brancaccio is the host of Marketplace Morning Report. Follow David on Twitter @DavidBrancaccio

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