“When those two towers hit, there it was. My first real memory of being on my own.”
Good news and bad news
When my roommate came in on that September morning and I was just rubbing my eyes open, he told me that he had “some good news and some bad news.”
I forgot the good news.
When I woke up that morning, the television showed one blazing tower with as many questions as answers. In those moments, a second plane blazed before my eyes, ensuring that the “good news” — whatever it was — would be a long way away from my mind.
The scene was Michigan State University, McDonel Hall. It was my first real time living away from home — I had only moved in two weeks prior, and I had a lot to get away from at the time. My dad died a year and a half before (my mom died a year and a half after), and it affected me deeply. My transfer to MSU was partly because I wanted to go to a great journalism school (it worked, I think), but partly because I needed something of my own to grab onto.
When those two towers hit, there it was. My first real memory of being on my own. When those planes hit, I didn’t know that a story like 9/11 would eventually become like blood pumping through my veins, where I’d follow every angle of it until I knew it inside and out, and people would read what I had to say about the matter. Or what would happen next.
The next 24 hours I spent staring at any television I could find, even basically ignoring my Taco Bell job until I was told to stop watching the television put out on a cardboard box, begging to be watched. No chalupa could compete with this moment, and the impression it had on me. I quit the job not long after.
I told myself I’d never be a workaholic like my dad. I figured I would do everything in my power to keep low-key and go out of my way to not stress. Instead, the remnants of that moment slowly became the things that made me just like him — in a good way, that is. There are a ton of details that go into that story from here. But the roots began on 9/11. That’s when the obsession with following the news truly began. That planted the seed for the hobby of journalism to become a career.
Perhaps that was the good news.
— Ernie Smith, editor of ShortFormBlog
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