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20 years later, Dave Ross recalls how it felt to report on 9/11

People embrace at the September 11th Memorial on Sept. 9, 2021, in New York City. New York City and much of the nation are preparing for the 20th anniversary of the terrorist attacks in both New York City and Washington D.C. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

Twenty years ago, KIRO Radio’s Dave Ross, Dori Monson, and Heather Bosch were all on the air reporting on and reacting to the 9/11 attacks in 2001.

Meanwhile, a young historian named Feliks Banel was rolling tape.

KIRO Radio shares memories from Sept. 11, 2001

“Long before I worked at KIRO or worked in the history museum, I would press record on a tape recorder when stuff was going on in local news because I thought someday I might be able to play it on the radio,” Feliks said. “And sure enough …”

Feliks shared a few audio samples he pulled from the tapes of that day in 2001, including a live report from Heather Bosch in downtown Seattle, and reactions from Dori and Dave.

“Dori sort of got into the emotional part of it,” Feliks said. “He’s not emotional in this [clip], what we’re going to hear here, but he talks about how the emotions were at work at that time of the day.”

“I think a lot of people today would say — and this is emotion that is talking today, and hopefully whatever the American response is will be a reasoned one — but I think right now the emotion of the moment has Americans saying that we must strike back 100 times stronger than the force with which we were struck,” Dori says in the audio from 2001. “Because that is the only way to stop terrorism. Now, again, that’s an emotional response. What is the most practical response? That will be evaluated. But there will be a response. You can be sure of that.”

“I’m not sure if we still know the answer to what the most rational response is here 20 years later,” Feliks replied.

Feliks also spoke with some of the elected officials this past summer who were in office 20 years ago. He shared audio from Christine Gregoire, who was attorney general at the time, former Secretary of State Sam Reed, and former King County Executive Ron Sims.

The bulk of the tape, however, is from Dave Ross’ show.

“You said a lot of brilliant things,” Feliks told Dave. “I don’t mind saying that, you know I’m not trying to butter you up or anything.”

Dave was born and raised in New York and went to Cornell University.

“This is the rogue attack we’ve been told so much about and yet from the experts we’ve heard and talked to this morning, how could you have prevented it? It didn’t come via missile. It came via passenger jets, in areas which are heavily traveled by passenger jets all the time,” Dave says in audio from 9/11 in 2001.

“As somebody who grew up in the New York area and has visited New York City, to see something like this, there’s really nothing you can say except that you’re upset. You’re in shock. You were angry,” he said. “I’ve got friends in New York. I don’t know what’s happened to them. They may have been working, I don’t know. I have called my parents already. They were upstate. But there will be many, many other phone calls which will not be returned in the same fashion. And it is just beginning. This will go on for months, it will go on for years.”

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Now, listening to his voice from 20 years ago, Dave says he remembers the feeling of vulnerability.

“It’s funny because I avoid 9/11 news. … I went to New York the weekend after it happened and spent some time down there, talking to firefighters and relief workers and just walking around the pile and walking around New York. And just remember looking at all those high rises and saying, ‘any one of these things could be so easily hit.’ The vulnerability that made me feel is very uncomfortable,” Dave recalled.

“And now looking back and realizing some of the mistakes we made in response to it and not being able to take any of that back, I just, I find the whole thing frustrating,” he said. “I, myself will probably mostly be avoiding media over the weekend. I know I shouldn’t be saying that, but that’s just the way I feel.”

For Feliks, he feels like the narrative is not complete.

“With World War II, the narrative has kind of a beginning, middle, and end — it’s not satisfying, obviously hundreds of thousands of people died in World War II. But like the pandemic, 9/11 doesn’t have a final chapter,” he said. “We’re still sort of stuck in this loop of living history, which, as a historian, I don’t really want to live history. I want to study it and talk about it. Living through it is exhausting, and I feel like we’re still living through it 20 years later.”

“So true,” Dave agreed.

Listen to Seattle’s Morning News weekday mornings from 5 – 9 a.m. on KIRO Radio, 97.3 FM. Subscribe to the podcast here.

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