'It was sort of this surreal moment, like ‘Is this actually happening?''
BEND, Ore. (KTVZ) -- While most people were getting ready for school or work on the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, KTVZ Chief Meteorologist Bob Shaw and former Sunrise news anchor Jason Carr were getting ready to get a show on the air.
“It started out normal,” Shaw said. “We were right at the top. You had opened the show, we greeted everybody, and I got to the Weather Center to get ready for my first weather hit.”
Shaw said that's the moment when he saw what was playing on the NBC monitor in the weather center.
“I noticed the first plane had already flown in,” he said. “And I’m watching the first tower burn.”
The New York City Office of Chief Medical Examiner reported 2,753 people died when two planes crashed into the Twin Towers at the World Trade Center.
For Carr, heading to work that morning was “business as usual.”
“I remember having our morning coffee in between segments, joking and having fun,” Carr said. “All of a sudden, I remember the director saying in our ear, 'Something happened in New York.'”
He added that it took a while to process the events at that moment and there was overall confusion.
“It was sort of this surreal moment, like ‘Is this actually happening?’” Carr said.
He said once the second plane flew into the other tower and a third hit the Pentagon, he, like everyone, knew America was under attack.
National news sources later reported 19 men had hijacked four U.S. commercial airlines, carrying out a terrorist attack led by al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.
Carr, now communications director for Crook County schools, was only 22 years old at the time, “getting his feet wet” in the broadcast journalism industry.
“That was the first time that I had ever experienced such a major breaking news story and how to handle that,” he said.
Shaw said everyone in the news department got called into work that day, including reporters who had the day off.
“I turned into a reporter that day,” he said. “I did a story on blood donations, and there was a huge line at the Bend River Mall.”
In November, just a couple months after the events of 9/11, Shaw visited family members in New York. He was also scheduled to shoot promotional videos with “Today Show” weather anchor Al Roker.
“Our youngest daughter, Olivia, was just a little girl at the time,” Shaw said. “We got out of the subway, and all she could see was buildings coming down. She climbed onto my neck and wouldn’t look up.”
Carr also recalled what traveling was like in the months immediately after the attacks. He and his wife had planned a trip to visit family in Colorado for Christmas that year.
“Right before we left was when the 'shoe bomber' tried to get on an airplane with a bomb,” he said. “That’s when shoes started having to come off.”
Carr was referring to the event on Dec. 22, 2001, when a man named Richard Reid hid explosives in his shoes and boarded an American Airlines flight from Paris to Miami.
“I remember the tension,” he said. “It was thick in the airports.”
He said it took him and his wife three to four hours to get through security at Portland International Airport before they could board their flight to Denver.
“People were fairly quiet on the airplane,” he added. “It was like, ‘Okay, we’re in this tin box 30,000 feet in the air.’ You just sort of think of life differently that way.”
Carr said he believes there are similarities between the fears and tension 20 years ago and the uncertainties facing our world today.
“The unknowns of COVID have felt very similar to the unknowns of post-terrorism reality, and people not knowing what the world was going to look like then,” he said. “Are we going to face another terrorist attack?”
He also recalled the positive, including the patriotism and sense of unity that came out of the tragic events.
“As grim as it was, our country came together in a way that I wish we could figure out how to do now,” he said.
Carr and Shaw agreed 9/11 changed the framework of American society, and that it also brought to light a sense of strength and resilience in everyday life.
“I’d like to say it doesn’t harden you -- it steels you,” said Shaw, who is still NewsChannel 21's chief meteorologist. “When not necessarily tragedy, but difficulties hit, you realize, ‘Okay, I can handle this a little more level-headed than I thought I could.’”
Carr added that difficult life events also give people a sense of their own mortality.
“You start to recognize you truly do not know the days you have left,” he said. “There is a part of you that starts to realize, ‘I need to live each moment, and enjoy each moment.’”