Grove Header- White.png
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

What was it like to cover the Sept 11th Attacks for local Journalists? WSTM's Matt Mulcahy shares thoughts with WAER

Wikimedia commons
World Trade Center attacks impacted many people and aspects of society, all of which were covered by journalists.

What was it like in Newsrooms 20 years ago for those who covered the September 11th terrorist attacks? WSTM News Anchor Matt Mulcahy – then at WTVH – shared his reflections with WAER’s Chris Bolt. He recalls exactly where he was when he found out the tragedy – and his role to cover it - had begun.

“I was sitting almost exactly where I’m sitting talking to you now, in the same study …. The phone rang, it was my mother-in-law and she immediately said a non-sequitur of, ‘This is why I never want you people to live in New York City.’ And I didn’t know what she was talking about.”

Once he saw coverage of the first plane crashing into the World Trade Center, Mulcahy rushed into work and both started covering the tragedy and its impacts in Central New York, but also took it in like most of us as the tragedy unfolded.

Some of his other observations:

What it was like in his newsroom?

“There certainly was an urgency.  Hancock Airport wasn’t going to be operating the same (and) two things stand out in regards to Syracuse.  Upstate Hospital started mobilizing … thinking, what’s going on in New York City is bound to put a stress on the Health Care system in Manhattan. We had no way of knowing that wasn’t going to happen because if you were in the building and you didn’t make it out, you didn’t make it. … And the other element was, the 174th Fighter Wing in Syracuse, we had gotten word the Pennsylvania plane was still int eh air, that our fighter jets ay have been involved patrolling the skies.”

On how the 9/11 tragedy affected so many things, among them, how we view terrorism, even though we had suffered impacts of Pan Am Flight 103.

“But that was overseas and we collectively as Americans felt we’re pretty safe in our country. … We’re not going to be victims of terrorism, not in our country.  That happens in other countries.”

And Mulcahy agrees there are parallels in covering the September 11th attacks and covering the COVID pandemic.

“We can’t help but do a story (now) that relates to COVID.  It’s so widespread that it’s surpassed 9/11, certainly in the death toll, although it’s less dramatic, it’s cumulative.  From schools to work to unemployment to the economy to everything you could think, right now seems to all relates back to COVID.”

On telling the stories of 9/11 and its impacts on these anniversaries of the tragedy.

“It’s really important to remember what happened and how things are better in some ways because we are safer now.  But also, how we’re vulnerable because another attack could happen, and people should be vigilant. … And I think that message applies to the pandemic too.”

Chris Bolt, Ed.D. has proudly been covering the Central New York community and mentoring students for more than 30 years. His career in public media started as a student volunteer, then as a reporter/producer. He has been the news director for WAER since 1995. Dedicated to keeping local news coverage alive, Chris also has a passion for education, having trained, mentored and provided a platform for growth to more than a thousand students. Career highlights include having work appear on NPR, CBS, ABC and other news networks, winning numerous local and state journalism awards.