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Remembering 9/11: A return to Shanksville

Veteran journalists Dick Russ and Dan Bowman pay a visit to the Flight 93 Memorial, 20 years after 9/11

SHANKSVILLE, Pa. — It is a day Americans will never forget.

This Saturday marks the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. And while we all remember where we were on that day, for some 'the where' is a little more haunting. 

When former WKYC reporter and managing editor Dick Russ and former chief photographer Dan Bowman, visited the newsroom recently, thoughts of past stories and old co-workers flood their minds. 

"I could barely get up Lakeside," Bowman said 

But the memory of one story remains a little more vivid. 

"Twenty years ago. We are going to go back, just like we did that day," said Russ to a former colleague. 

Their journey: to Shanksville on September 11th, 2001. 

During the 3-hour drive, the two reminisced about that day with reporter Will Ujek. 

Credit: WKYC
Former WKYC reporter Dick Russ and former Chief Photographer Dan Bowman return to Shanksville, 20 years after covering the crash of Flight 93.

"We were in the newsroom and obviously, things were happening as fast or faster than anyone could imagine. We knew we were heading east, but we thougth first we were going to Washington," Russ recalled.

"They called and said 'Shanksville' or they might have been calling it something else, but to go to where the plane went down," Bowman remembered of the communication, telling them where Flight 93 had crashed. 

"What was the mood like in the car, with everybody on edge and not sure what happened? Did it feel different when you guys were driving out there? What was it like?" Ujek asked the veteran journalists. 

"It was like nothing ever before or since. We had no idea if the rest of the country would be under attack? If the military would mobilize, woudl we even be able to get there? What are we goign to see? What are we going to do?" Russ said. 

The duo used a collection of maps and talk radio to navigate and stay informed, leading them 180 miles from Cleveland to a field in Western Pennsylvania, where the heroics and courage of 40 people is memorialized. 

"It's amazing what they've done to this place,"said Russ. 

A look at the Flight 93 National Memorial in Shanksville, Pa. on August 19, 2016. American Airlines Flight 93 crashed into a field outside Shanksville, PA with 33 passengers, seven crew members, and four hijackers aboard on September 11, 2001.

Just like in the newsroom, the images of 20 years ago come roaring back.

"The lady we met, somewhere up here, she was pointing to the right," the men remarked, as they recalled interviewing one of the witnesses to the crash in those first hours. 

In the Flight 93 National Memorial Visitor Center, Russ and Bowman look at a still photo, in which a plume of smoke hovers over a field. It is eerily familiar. 

"From a different angle, but that's pretty much what it looked like when we arrive," said Bowman. 

And another photograph, of the throng of journalists on scene that day, "This is it Dan. This is it. Yeah, that's us. That's what it looked like, I remember that," said Russ. 

Credit: WKYC
Dick Russ and Dan Bowman have many memories from that tragic day in 2001. They left WKYC on that fateful morning, heading to Washington DC, then following news reports to Shanksville, where they covered the crash of Flight 93 for days afterwards.

Images burned into their memory of the day America will never forget. 

"We had a job to do when we came," said Russ.

"And we did it well. But there was no time to reflect on the enormity of that. You know, the tragedy. It gives you time to reflect coming back here," said Bowman. 

"And seeing this, I grieve for them and their families. And I think them for their heroic sacrifice. And so should every other American," said Russ. 

The Flight 93 Memorial in Shanksville is about a 3 hour drive from Cleveland. There are special hours in observance of the 20th anniversary. You can find details here.

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