On the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, Herbert Lowe was covering the primary election as the southeast Queens reporter for Newsweek.
Lowe, a native of Camden, New Jersey, realized it wasn’t a normal day on the job when his editor told him to turn on the television.
He watched a plane fly into the World Trade Center.
The Alligator spoke with Lowe, a UF College of Journalism and Communications professor, about his experience covering the terrorist attacks 18 years ago on Ground Zero and how that morning changed American life for years to come.
The Alligator reporter is represented in bold text.
Were you even remotely prepared at all to see what you saw?
I stopped to vote, so I wasn’t in that much of a hurry. Honestly, it wasn’t until I came up the subway and that man said, ‘Run run run,’ and I didn’t know why everyone was running... It wasn’t until I came up from the subway I realized this wasn’t a day like any other.
You kind of stopped, and one of the first thoughts that you had was that you were going to die.
I didn’t know what was going on. I was thinking that this was Pearl Harbor and people were flying by and shooting down at the ground, and I didn’t know where to go... I felt like I was a sitting duck.
Being 18 years ago, is everything a bit fuzzy or do you remember anything vividly?
I remember the man running towards us. I remember people being caked with ash. I remember being outside that cigar shop and people smoking cigars while I first get a look of the video of the Trade Center falling, and then turning around and looking at a man crying because he knew his brother had died in the tower. I remember a lady hollering at me because I didn’t have a mask on… That mask and shoes are still in my office.
Do you think the American public went through a kind of paranoia?
I wouldn’t call it a paranoia… Heightened awareness is what I would call it. I had come to believe that my generation had really not experienced anything.
The generation before me, people who are old enough to be my parents, they endured the ‘60s... Those ‘remember where you were’ moments...
I’m going to ask you. I mean, I guess Parkland for you, right? Like, you remember where you were.
I have 27 students in the class, only 25 of those 27 are from the state of Florida. They knew every detail of what was going on….
I was doing my job that day, and my assignment that day became the most memorable assignment that I would ever cover.
As a professor, has this profound experience affected your day-to-day life, the way you teach students or the little things that you do?
In 18 years that its gone by, I’ve had a lot, a lot, a lot to be thankful for in terms of the experiences I’ve had, and I know there are 3,000 people who can’t say that…
Every day there’s at least one thing that causes us to be blessed or understand how blessed we are to have the next day come, because you never know. A plane can come through the building you’re standing in.
This Q&A was edited for clarity and brevity. The full interview can be found in the audio recording.