Russ Lewis: Remembering 9/11


by Russ Lewis, KGW News Anchor

Posted on September 11, 2011 at 2:18 PM

September 11, 2001. It started just like any other Tuesday would.

I was in my usual spot, anchoring KGW Newschannel 8 at Sunrise. During a commercial break, our producer told me about reports that a plane had hit a building in New York City. It was just before 6AM.

I assumed a small aircraft had accidental veered off course. It had happened before.

Once we came back from commercials, our producer asked me to briefly ad-lib the information we knew and then toss it to Matt Lauer and Katie Couric, who were on the air in NYC describing the scene.

Like everyone else, when I saw the first live pictures of the World Trade Center I realized just how serious the damage was. This was no small plane crash.

No one really suspected terrorism yet but then the second plane hit and it started to become more clear.

I knew we had no chance of coming back to local news coverage at that point, yet I sat on our news set for hours, so captivated by the pictures I couldn’t leave the studio.

Four days later I was on one of the first planes out of Seattle heading to Washington D.C.

I spent a week in our Nation’s capital reporting on the Pentagon attack.

How strange it was to see armed soldiers and Humvees sitting on every corner around Federal buildings, monuments and museums. Normally those same streets would be bustling with government workers and tourists. You truly got the sense we were now at war.

Photographer Brian Robertson and I eventually drove to NYC to relieve other news crews. Lower Manhattan was a much different scene than DC. A week after the attacks, smoke still hung in the air. Phone lines didn’t work in many places. NYC normally has so much energy. Now people were walking around in a daze.

Nobody was talking.

I will never forget walking along Canal Street. That’s where the police barricades were set up preventing people from getting too close to the WTC site. It’s also where family members put up posters of their missing loved ones.

Every pole, every building was covered with faces of moms and dads and kids and their personal stories. Relatives were desperately hoping their loved one had somehow made it out of those towers and would be found alive.

I stopped to read a few. It’s the first time I cried since the attacks happened.

Ten years later, the planes hitting the WTC is not the lasting image of 9-11 for me. It’s the faces of those missing people on Canal Street - New Yorkers who lost their lives on a September morning that started so uneventfully but would end up changing us all forever.