The O-N-E focuses on 9/11, now and then

Only a few hours after terrorists attacked the United States, Catawba County's community newspaper was among the first in the state and the nation to hit the streets with the news.

"We had it in the newspaper pretty quick. We may have been the first newspaper in North Carolina to print it," said Jon Alverson, former sports editor for The Observer News Enterprise. "I know we had it out before noon."

In 2001, The O-N-E was an afternoon newspaper, getting to news racks and readers around lunch time every day. Under that schedule, editorial staff produced news stories and pages each morning, and the paper was usually on the press by about 10:30 a.m.

When a pair of planes crashed into the World Trade Center in New York City, and two jetliners were commandeered by terrorists, The O-N-E's print schedule was impacted.

"We actually pulled the plates off the press that day," Alverson told The O-N-E this week. "We had the paper 99 percent done, and I think they were even (finishing) the front page."

As the paper production was in final stages before printing, at 8:46 a.m., terrorists crashed American Airlines Flight 11 into the WTC North Tower.

"There was an advertising representative who came in that morning and said that somebody flew a little plane into the Wolrd Trade Center. He thought it was a private aircraft," Alverson remembered. "The editor at the time (Jennifer Miller) turned on a TV in the newsroom, and right when she did, the second plane hit."

At 9:03 a.m., hijackers flew United Airlines Flight 175 into the WTC South Tower, and The O-N-E editorial staff immediately stopped work on the paper previously planned for that Tuesday afternoon edition.

"We stopped all of that," Alverson said, adding editorial staff members began downloading photos from the Associated Press. "The first images that were coming through were screen captures of what was broadcasting on the TV."

Under a powerful headline "Terrorists Attack," the Sept. 11, 2001 edition of The O-N-E was among the first in the state to deliver the news of the unfolding disaster. However, because the newspaper went to press near noon, the story was still unfolding. Reports focused on the immediate, breaking information about the news event — the planes crashing into the WTC and the Pentagon. Elizabeth Dole cancelled an event planned to announce her candidacy for the U.S. Senate, according to the Sept. 11 edition, and the first hint of a looming collapse of the WTC was reported.

In the Wednesday, Sept. 12, 2001 edition of The O-N-E published the following day, the depth and breadth of the disaster became more clear.

By then, both towers collapsed, and the grim task of search, rescue and recovery began in New York and Washington, D.C. and Pennsylvania.

Meanwhile, in Catawba County, the mourning and solemn moments of prayer began, and The O-N-E reported on churches throughout eastern Catawba County that began to convene prayer vigils.

As a community newspaper, The O-N-E continued to publish news about local groups and activities happening in eastern Catawba County — news not related to 9/11. However, in the days and weeks that followed Sept. 11, 2001, the bulk of the community newspaper's coverage was dedicated to the 9/11 tragedy.

"We just did 9/11 coverage for the next several days," Alverson said, adding that much of the community "shut down" after the attacks, including sports. "There were no sports at the high schools, so we just did 9/11 coverage."

Stories focused on the Catawba Valley Chapter of the American Red Cross' response, including blood and letter drives, while Newton hosted a vigil at the 1924 Courthouse. Lenoir-Rhyne University professor Dr. Marion Love spoke to The O-N-E from New York, and told of her experience while she was in the city for a conference at the time of the attack. Piedmont Village residents showed their patriotism with a red, white and blue flag made of cups placed in the facility's chain-link fence. Citizens throughout the county, state and nation, they showed their American spirit in various ways, ,and in many cases, The O-N-E delivered coverage.

Now, 10 years after the disaster, The O-N-E is printing on a different schedule that puts the newspaper on the streets in the morning. And while the newspaper's central focus is providing community coverage of Catawba County news, O-N-E Publisher Michael Willard said it is still important to commemorate the national news story that impacted every American.

"The events on 9/11 shaped life in America as we know it today," he said. "As we pay solemn tribute to the 10th anniversary, it is important that we remember the sacrifice that was made on 9/11, as well as the commitment to freedom and solidarity our nation exhibited after the terrorist attack.

"As citizens throughout Catawba County also take solemn note of the disaster that unfolded 10 years ago, we at The O-N-E focused on delivering coverage of the people who make up our community as they commemorate this grim event in their own unique ways."