Posted by: maureen in truth, peace, memory on
Mar 20, 2012
A producer for CBS News was having coffee at his home in Manhattan when the first plane hit the World Trade Center on September 11th, 2001. Tom Flynn raced to the scene on his bike and found a Merrill Lynch employee who’d just gotten a new camera. “He came out of the building,” Tom said, “and was standing near the southwest corner of the south tower.”
“You’re now working for CBS News,” Tom told him. “Okay, man,” the guy answered.
As job interviews go, that was a quick one. “You know how to work that thing? You’re hired.”
Tom checked to see if anyone else in the area had a camera. “If there were others,” Tom explained, “I wanted to own them.” Oh, that’s right. Death and destruction--but also, competition. Tom’s job was to give people the truth--the whole truth, and nothing but the truth--and
be the first to do it.
I couldn’t get over that.
Tom reported from the scene for more than an hour. Then he got trapped in a garage and was afraid he’d die there. Then he raced to the CBS headquarters and sat at the anchor desk with Dan Rather and tried to explain what was happening to the rest of us. He eventually turned his notes into a poem, which was published as the book Bikeman
a few years ago. He’s haunted by the memory of a woman who came to a reading. “I lost my son in one of the towers,” she said. She bought the book, but didn’t plan to read it. “They never found a trace of my son,” she continued. “Not even a fingernail.”
Tom understands. He still suffers from survivor’s guilt. “There was a fellow running alongside me as we tried to get away from one of the towers as it collapsed,” he says. “It was this big, huge, enormous building--so small parts of it were still huge. I was on the sidewalk with my bike, running, and he was running right next to me on the street. A piece of the building fell on him, and he just disappeared.”
I’ve always wondered what the people who knew they were going to die were thinking about before they did. Could they make peace with their lives?