Sept. 11, 2001: How we got out the news

Wednesday, September 11, 2013
(Slightly revised as indicated, Sept. 11, 2015)

Within hours of the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, downtown Chicago quickly became a ghost town. Businesses -- especially those in high-rise towers -- closed, and people left work to be with their families.

But not everyone.

Even though no one was sure what other cities or targets might yet be struck, many people -- including public safety and transit workers -- stayed on the job. Among them: journalists, like my colleagues at the Chicago Tribune and chicagotribune.com, who had news to tell.

When the sudden surge in traffic rendered much of the Web mute, reporters turned to email to share what they knew when they knew it. It was my privilege responsibility to oversee that email -- and press "Send" -- to transmit four of our then relatively new Tribune Alerts before the website returned to service.

The first began this way:
From: Tribune Alerts
Date: Tue, Sep 11, 2001 at 8:23 AM
Subject: Report: Planes hit World Trade Center

From the update desk of chicagotribune.com:
____________________________________

Report: Planes hit World Trade Center

Broadcast reports say two planes crashed into the towers of New York's World Trade Center this morning. ...

Read all four of the alerts here.

P.S. At some point in the morning -- I think between the second and third alerts, and after an instant-message exchange with my sister, to whom I recall typing something like "The United States was nice while it lasted" -- I slipped out briefly to make a large cash withdrawal from a Tribune Tower ATM.