Looking back on the events of 9/11

Marshall Maher

Editor’s Note: In this column, Daily Texan alumnus Marshall Maher recounts his experience as editor on Sept. 11, 2001.

It started with a small CNN “breaking” banner that said, “Plane crashes into World Trade Center in NYC.” I was in my apartment in West Campus having a morning coffee before heading into the Daily Texan offices that day. There was no video or images — or even any other information at that time.

I didn’t think much of it as I biked up 24th Street to my first class in the communications building. When I got there everyone was in the hall staring up at the television screens that had video of the first crash. We were part of the unlucky millions watching CNN live when the second plane shot across the sky and slammed into the second tower. We were numb. 

It’s cliche to mention how much a moment like that can change your life. There was absolutely no way to put it into context. It seemed otherworldly. After about 15 minutes of sheer awe and terror, I ran down to the Daily Texan offices to talk to friends and colleagues about it. 

Much like upstairs, the room was deathly silent as we hung on every horrible word. The jumpers … oh, God.  Somewhere at the back of the room, someone said, “We have to put out a fucking paper tomorrow.” 

As the editor, I wish I could take credit for saying it. I can’t. Those words snapped us out of our numbness. We looked at each other for the first time in hours. There were tears, shock and anger in our faces. This was happening to us, too. Without prompting, people began picking up their notepads and cameras and got to work.

Reporters Rachel Stone, Celina Moreno, Eric Garza, Melissa Drosjack and others fanned out across campus to get reactions and insights. Aarti Shah, Purva Patel and Vicki Lame wrote an incredibly timely and in-depth analysis of how Muslims in Austin were dealing with the aftermath. Even the Entertainment section had a story on how the tragedy was going to affect everything from advertising to movies. Photography, graphics, design, copy editors and printers — everyone came into work and worked late into the night. Associate Editor Stephen Stetson and I wrote an editorial urging cooler heads to prevail before plunging into war. We received hate mail for weeks. It was my proudest time as a student journalist.

That day changed The Daily Texan forever, too. In many ways, the paper is still dealing with the aftermath. Advertising dried up overnight. Even stalwarts like the Co-op and various businesses along the Drag took their ad business away. As The Daily Texan supports most of the student media on campus, it was critical revenue that never returned.

When I was first asked to write this retrospective, I wanted to pass. So much misery and sadness came from these events and the U.S. response to them. It is still emotional and going back to that dark time is not a pleasant proposition. 

But I am grateful because this column has allowed me to remember amazing colleagues and an institution that I credit more than any other for any success I have in life. 

For the record, The Daily Texan put out a damn fine newspaper on Sept. 12. 

Maher is a vice president at Ketchum, a public relations firm in New York City. Maher was editor of the Texan from 2001-2002.