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Remembering 9/11: WKYC journalists recall emotional aftermath of attacks

A tragedy on "two levels." From the attacks on NYC and DC, to the fear in Cleveland, veteran journalists share their most vivid memories of the day our world changed

CLEVELAND — As we approach the 20th anniversary of the terrorist attacks that took place on September 11, 2001, we sat down with WKYC journalists from the past and present to discuss what they remember from that day, and what lessons they took with them. 

Below, you will find accounts of the day from former WKYC Anchors Tim White and Romona Robinson, 3News Senior Health Correspondent Monica Robins, and "Front Row" Anchor Jim Donovan.

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Tim White: "It was a beautiful bright Tuesday morning."

Jim Donovan: "Blue skies. Perfect temperatures."

Monica Robins: "It was that perfect day. And then a plane hit a building."

Romona Robinson: "I was right outside my door, planting shrubs, when I looked up and heard this roar up above in the sky. There was a huge jevt that I could see in the distance. But it felt like it was flying too low. So I came in the house and turned on the television."

Credit: Susan Moses
Monica Robins recalls a group of firefighters on the Lorain-Carnegie bridge, crying upon hearing the news that the Twin Towers had collapsed.

Tim White: "I had the Today Show on in the background and yes, there was a report of something hit the World Trade Tower. At that moment, something just clicked inside and I got dressed, went to the station and it felt like we were there for three days."

Tim White: "This was going on on two levels. You had this massive story unfolding nationally, which had us riveted and unnerved. But in real time, we also had the local implications. It was clear that something had happened over Cleveland in our airspace. That turns out Romona had actually seen the aircraft no way to know at the time."

Credit: WKYC
Unconfirmed reports of a plane heading toward downtown Cleveland, sent evacuation plans in motion. Journalists recall the challenge, and responsibility of disseminating information that day.

Monica Robins: "When I walked into the building, I remember it was busy. It was all hands on deck. Everybody was down in the newsroom, but it was calm, not chaotic."

Romona Robinson: "And I think I grew up on the year that day, but I had to hold in everything I felt. I was fearful. I was angry. I kept mouthing to Tim because our mics were hot. And we couldn't talk to one another, because we didn't want viewers to hear what we were saying. And I kept mouthing to him "they attacked us. They attacked us!" I was literally in shock the whole time and trying to hold back the tears."

Credit: WKYC
Romona Robinson recalls struggling to keep her emotions in check, especially as reports of trapped people jumping from the Twin Towers came in. Tim White fought back anger over the terrorists actions and innocent lives they stole that day.

Tim White: "I got out to go talk to these firefighters. And three of them were just standing on the side of the bridge. Crying, never seen anything like that before didn't know how to respond, but they knew exactly what had happened. And they knew who was in that building. When that building came down and it impacted them immensely."

Romona Robinson: (addressing Tim White) "You were angry that day. I was terrified. I was worried about my mom, worried about my family and worried about Cleveland. Being in the Air Force reserves you, what were you going through that day?"

Credit: WKYC
Jim Donovan recalls the overriding feeling in the United States for first few days and weeks after 9/11. But he also remembers the patriotism and way that the U.S. came together, to take a stand against terrorism.

Tim White: "I realized probably by 10 o'clock that morning that a lot of my brothers and sisters in uniform were going to be engaged in a deadly fight. Didn't know it was going to last as long as it did. But I realized that this was a time when America takes stock of its strength and takes care of its long-term interests. So I knew that there would be a big military response to this."

Jim Donovan: "When it happened, I think it just knocked us all, really, off of our feet."

Monica Robins: "And I'll never forget driving into work. And there was one guy, one of the bridges on 90 standing there with an American flag waving that flag. He was there for day and night. And flags were everywhere."  

Credit: WKYC
The city turned major downtown roadways into outbound lanes only. Mayor Michael White wanted to evacuate downtown as quickly and safely as possible, in case of an attack.

Jim Donovan: "If you went out and you drove around, those firemen and police officers or volunteers would be out at every traffic light. And they'd have a big boot and it take any kind of money. Thank you that you would, that you would give to throw a 20 in or a 1, you know, or change in. And I just thought that that was really cool."

Credit: WKYC
Tim and Romona have many shared memories from the period after 9/11. But the one that stands out is the resilience and generosity of Northeast Ohio, in times of great suffering.

Tim White: "One of the things that strikes me is that when a great national disaster, like nine 11 strikes this country, it is the good people of cities like Cleveland who rise up to meet it always. Always."

Romona Robinson: Always. 

Never forget. 

Watch our extended video:

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