Briones: Recollection

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HAS it really been 18 years?

Sept. 11, 2001 was a Tuesday.

That night, I was at work in the SunStar Cebu newsroom when then business editor Max blurted out that a plane had just crashed into one of the skyscrapers in Manhattan, New York City.

The time was around 10 minutes to 9 p.m.

Max was in a good position to monitor the TV, which was always on, since it was right above him. He was tuned in to CNN.

I didn’t give it much thought since we were busy trying to finish the next day’s edition.

Aside from Max, present that night were Isolde, Carmel, Titing, Ate Vi, Jun and, of course, our then editor-in-chief, Pachico A. Seares. I’m sure there were others but my memory isn’t what it used to be, so I apologize for not mentioning you.

Isolde was not hard to miss since I sat next to her. As for Carmel, she has a distinct voice that is unforgettable. Jun sat right outside Sir’s office, which was right behind us. Ate Vi was in the library.

A few minutes later, all our attention was fixed on the screen. A second plane had flown into the second tower of the World Trade Center. Half an hour later, another plane had crashed into the Pentagon building in Washington D.C.

I was up on my feet, calculating how many people were inside the twin towers. I knew there’d be many casualties, but when the final total came out, it was hard to imagine that those numbers represented human beings who had family and loved ones.

When the dust settled, it was revealed that 2,996 people perished in the three attacks and the one plane that crashed after its passengers tried to fight off the hijackers. More than 6,000 were injured.

According to the National Institute of Standards and Technology, an estimated 17,400 civilians were in the World Trade Center complex when the attacks happened.

Sir announced that we could come out with a special edition. It was a “first” for me so I was excited even though I wasn’t part of it since I was then a copyeditor.

I don’t recall exactly what ‘Sol, Milang, Maxi and I were talking about but obviously we were all dumbfounded. I probably came up with unfounded theories on who was behind these acts of terrorism since I thought of myself as the resident Arabophile.

Then Sir asked Titing to buy beer across the street and to bring it to the newsroom lounge. That, too, was a “first” for me. Guess what, though? I was not excluded this time.

I remember Sir telling me that we had just witnessed world-changing events. That nothing would ever be the same after the 9/11 incidents. And boy, was he right.