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These stories originally aired on WCBU on Sept. 10, 2021, during a half-hour special broadcast marking the 20th anniversary of 9/11.

Veteran Peoria Journalists Had To Set Emotions Aside To Cover 9/11

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As the 20th Anniversary of 9/11 approaches, it's impossible not to think back to that day and feel a variety of different emotions bubble up.

When the tragic events that unfolded brought everything to chaos, many individuals had to put on a brave face and continue to work that day, including those in the news industry.

Mary Gordon is currently the assignment manager for WMBD-TV, but she was a photojournalist on the day of 9/11. Gordon says that it was hard to remain just a reporter that day. She says that everything about that day was so unpredictable and the facts were constantly changing that it was hard to keep composure.

“I remember in the morning, getting ready to come to work and I had the TV on. I am watching and I see the second plane hit the second tower and I knew I needed to get to work immediately,” she said. “We are trying to think of ways to cover it and we are trying to get information out and just the whole sense of 'What is going on?' and 'How do we localize it?' You want to cover it, but you also want to watch it because it is just so crazy.”

Brian Anton is a photojournalist for WMBD Peoria. Anton says that he remembers there being so many different stories to cover that day.

“There was a lot of just running around talking to people,” he said. “I remember we had to go to gas stations because there was a huge gas rush. We had to run to talk to people about that. We talked to fire stations because they lost a whole lot of men, and we lost policemen so we talked to them. There was a lot of talking to people about how they felt.”

Gordon says that a journalist needs to decompress for a bit after reporting on the tragedy that they watched unfold.

“Sometimes after you cover the event and you get all of this emotion, you should take time for yourself too because you need to decompress a bit,” she said. “In the moment, you are so hyped up and you want to get the story going and get the best video, the best sound. So you are hyped up getting all that done and when you are done you are like, wow that really happened.”

Anton also says that in order to photographic such a tragic event like 9/11, you have to try to put your own emotions aside.

“As a photographer, you kind of view everything from a viewfinder,” he said. “So mentally you can kind of put a block there and imagine that you are watching this through something else. I don’t have to feel it. When I did finally get home, it does kind of hit you. Everything you saw still hits you, but you have to hold it back sometimes when you are shooting.”

Anton and Gordon both agree that thinking back to that day is difficult for everyone, but in their role as a photo journalists that day they also got to capture moments of patriotism as well as feelings of togetherness and unity. They said that really brought moments of light into such a dark time in our country’s history.

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