Kemberly Richardson reflects on the anniversary of 9/11: 'Everyone frantic'

Kemberly Richardson Image
Thursday, September 7, 2023
'Eyewitness to 9/11: Behind the Lens' Official Trailer
On the 20th anniversary of 9/11, we hear from the Eyewitness News journalists who were there, in the streets, in the air, and in the newsroom, reporting on the events as the tragedy unfolded, capturing the unforgettable video of that day, and risking their lives to tell the world what was happening.

NEW YORK (WABC) -- Monday September 10, 2001...go to bed; next day is primary day, assigned to polling place in lower Manhattan. Have to be at work in the afternoon. Fall asleep in NYC apartment.

Tuesday September 11th, rings, wakes me up. Father "They got us, they got us, are you okay?" What are you talking about? "Turn on the TV, are you okay?" Go to living room, turn on TV. Think, wow this is a pretty realistic look at what would happen if someone attacked NYC. Father, "a plane hit the World Trade Center, are you okay!" Thought, what IS he talking about? World Trade Center, where I had my high school prom. Father, "a plane hit the tower."

Hang up; something has gone terribly wrong, what I am looking at is real! Hang up phone, call newsroom. Can't get through. Try again, lines busy. Try again, can't get through. Get dressed, slightly on edge. Go outside, seems okay, NYC is okay. Try to get a cab, try again, try again. Start walking to work. Why are there so many people walking in the streets? What is happening? Helicopters, sirens, helicopters. Tired of walking, try to hail a cab. Get one. Radio explains what is happening, planes, buildings on fire, people stuck. Accident? Terrorism? Go under tunnel at UN, look towards UN, what is going on.

Get to newsroom, everyone frantic, live coverage, live, breaking, developing story, what is happening? Terrorism, it appears it's not an accident. Where are my colleagues? Where are my friends? Who works in the towers? Who lives near the towers? Who is in lower Manhattan?

RELATED | 'Eyewitness to 9/11: Behind the Lens' reveals untold stories, rare video of America's darkest day

WABC-TV looks back on the 20th anniversary of 9/11 to hear from the Eyewitness News journalists who covered the attack as it unfolded.

Need to get there, must get there, need to find out what exactly is going on. Phones ring, someone is crying. Get a camera, head towards a NYC hospital. Wait for the injured to come, wait. Wait. Wait. No one comes.

Head towards lower Manhattan. Streets closed, can only go so far. Stop and park. A stranger, a man, "please find my daughter! She looks like this." A woman, "please find my son, he works in tower 1!" "Have you seen him?" Have you seen her?" We will reunite these people, we will reunite them. Come back to live truck. Windshield, windows, live truck covered in missing person flyers. Stop, stop, think, think.

Go home, back to NYC apartment. What has happened, what is going on? Get in bed. Cry, cry, cry. It's raining. Think of all of those people who are still alive, trapped in the debris. It's raining, they are hurt, injured and now it's raining.

The days and weeks that followed. The flies, so many flies in the city. Cry. Back to work. Canal Street, can go no further. Walk the rest of the way. The white dust everywhere. Everything covered in white power. The pile, the pile. Jagged metal, sharp glass, smoke, smoke. Firefighters, police, the white dust. What is going on? Cars in the middle of the street. Missing person flyers. The search for survivors. See raw video of those who decided to jump from the towers, what is going on? Cry, cry. Children, children. The flies. Firefighters, police from all over the country. Standing on West Side Highway, no cars. Tents on West Side Highway. Makeshift kitchens to feed folks helping to find the survivors.

RELATED | How reporter N.J. Burkett and his photographer escaped Twin Towers collapse

Eyewitness News reporter N.J. Burkett and photographer Marty Glembotzky rushed down to the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001. While shooting a standup right below the burning towers, the first tower began to collapse.

Are you OK? Cry, cry. Mother, "Please leave the city; come here where you will be safe!" I can't leave, I won't leave. Anger, anger, who did this to us! No survivors. No survivors. Funerals, funerals, are you okay? Please move out of the city! I won't, this is MY city! They keep searching, no survivors. Funerals, hundreds gone. Suspicious package here, another there. Colleague takes medical leave, not doing good, cannot go near lower Manhattan anymore. Funerals, caskets, families can't make sense, trying to make sense.

Still, 22 years later, trying to make sense.

CLICK HERE for more Eyewitness News reflections, photos and stories marking the anniversary of 9/11


* Get Eyewitness News Delivered

* Follow us on YouTube

* More local news

* Send us a news tip

* Download the abc7NY app for breaking news alerts

Submit a tip or story idea to Eyewitness News

Have a breaking news tip or an idea for a story we should cover? Send it to Eyewitness News using the form below. If attaching a video or photo, terms of use apply.