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Getting the news to press can be tough

By By Steve Swogetinsky
Sept. 16, 2001
In 1955, a tornado hit downtown Vicksburg late one Saturday afternoon. It destroyed a movie theater full of kids.
Charlie Faulk, my first managing editor, used to talk about how he reported that day's events for The Vicksburg Evening Post. He was a staff writer at the time, and it was his job to go into the disaster area to take pictures and get a story for that night's edition.
Mr. Faulk talked about how hard it was to do his job that night because he knew these people. Many were hurt and he wanted to stop and help. But he couldn't. His job as a journalist that night was to get the news out.
Doing our job
As we put out Tuesday's paper, not knowing what was going to happen next, I watched the people I work with. They were focused on the production of the product because we are journalists, and getting the news out is what we do.
But after the press runs and the job, for that day's edition, is done, there is time to think about what has happened.
The live television reports showed buildings being hit by airplanes, and later falling down. It showed the fires. It showed people running for their lives. But you have to think; what about those people who were trapped in the buildings as they burned, and then fell down? What about the people who were trapped on those hijacked airplanes as they crashed into the Towers and into the Pentagon? What about the friends and loved ones who will never see them in this world again?
What about those bastards that did this? Is hell hot enough? And what about the ones who masterminded it? Will we be in a war soon?
Is this the start of World War III? Will our men and women in uniform be putting their lives on the line soon to fight a war in another country? Will they bring the draft back? Will our children be going to war?
They say that as many as 20,000 could have been killed in New York City. What a terrible loss, and what a horrible way to die. You hope that they didn't suffer long.
When Tuesday started, the economy was the big story of the day. The stock market was falling and the news channels were predicting that the country was going into a recession. Sports fans were talking about Barry Bonds and how many home runs he was going to hit this season.
Suddenly, none of that seems very important.
Looking back
I asked some of my colleagues to compare Tuesday's experience to past events.
Mary Brown, who has been part of The Meridian Star family for 53 years, recalled similar days at the newspaper when major stories broke. Mary remembered the day General Douglas MacArthur returned to the Philippines during World War II.
Brown also remembered the day President Kennedy was assassinated.
Janet MacDonald, a member of the wire desk and The Star staff for a year and a half, remembered watching the news accounts of Oklahoma City.
Ralph Ewing, who has been in the circulation business for 22 years, recalled the airplane crashes in Dallas, where he was working in the mid-1980s.
Watching the production of the Tuesday edition was an experience for Stephanie Denham, who has been on the staff for three weeks.
But afterwards, "I just wanted to go and get my daughter at school and take her home and hug her," Denham said.
Marianne Todd recalled working in the newsroom of The Pensacola News Journal at the start of Desert Storm.
Things are different
In a few weeks, we will have moved on to the next big story and Tuesday will be a sad memory. But things have really changed in this country.
No longer are bombed out buildings some thing that happen in other countries. With Oklahoma City, the terrorist was a citizen of this country who was angry with the government.
But now, for the first time since the War of 1812, an act of war was been committed on the United States mainland by a foreign agent. It has happened, and there will be a lot more done, security wise, to see that it doesn't happen again.
Steve Swogetinsky is regional editor of The Meridian Star. Call him at 693-1551, ext. 3217, or e-mail him at sswogetinsky@the meridianstar.com.

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