In the summer of 2001, Leon Spangler, publisher of The Shopper, and I planned a new weekly newspaper for Snyder County. Our first issue hit the streets Sept. 6. Less than a week later, I woke up early and started preparing the second issue.
It was Sept. 11.
Here's what I said in that week's edition:
It was supposed to be just another day, as we prepared to put out this second issue.
It all seems so meaningless after Tuesday's events around the nation, but - and this is what makes America so great - life goes on.
In one way or another, all of us will eventually be touched by what happened this week. But that won't stop us from doing the same things we do every other day of our lives - although now there's a bit more meaning to each day we enjoy in peace.
For my family, it was a few frantic calls until we verified the safety of my sister, who works in New York City (in fact, her office space at Chelsea Piers eventually became the impromptu emergency room for rescue workers). Others around the county went through the same as they tried to track down their loved ones both in New York and outside Washington, D.C., and in western Pennsylvania.
But the true strength of the American people, like a tea bag, is seen only when we're in hot water. Those who tried to break America's spirit will be deeply disappointed to learn just how badly they failed.
A few months later, I got a call from former state Rep. Reno Thomas of Beavertown. He and his brother Park were spearheading a campaign to provide food to the men and women cleaning up Ground Zero along with the Pennsylvania Livestock Association: "Pennsylvania Pork for New York."
The Thomas brothers were moved by the efforts of family members from Georgia, who also had gone to New York to feed the weary. Reno said he was telling the story in church one Sunday, and decided to do the same. He and Park, along with other members of Beavertown's St. Paul's United Church of Christ, made the trip. I was invited to join them.
Here's what I wrote about the trip to a once-popular lower Manhattan eatery:
When you arrive at Nino's, you see a shrine to the effort they've made - banners line the fence across Canal Street; statues and a memorial display are on the sidewalk out front.
Inside, it's hard to believe the restaurant is closed - other than the fact that no money changes hands, and that you can't get past the front door without a proper ID. You need press clearance to take pictures and conduct interviews at the restaurant, which is about 10 blocks from the site of the former World Trade Center.
Laminated placemats feature hand drawings made by school children. The walls are decorated with insignia from police and fire departments from across the country that want to show their support.
Workers and uniformed officers come and go; the buffet line is always open. Volunteers from three states were serving that day.
Just a few blocks from the restaurant is the city's fire museum, suddenly a popular stop for visitors. Out front, a memorial features videos and crayon drawings, guest books from all over and other reminders of America's grim day.
Those who are familiar with New York will suddenly find things there to be surreal. As you walk around lower Manhattan, you keep looking for the ominous towers as a reference point - but they're not there.
When you approach the city and see the skyline, it looks eerily empty.
When you see the damage to the buildings surrounding the remnants of the twin giants, the black shrouds protecting the nearby skyscrapers, the buildings that were never really visible before - only then can you realize the incredible scope of the disaster.
The fact that you can still ride the subway to within blocks of the scene - the WTC station just reopened, in fact - is a testament to our refusal to take the attack sitting down.
Nino's manager Nick Pasculli, who runs the operation from a makeshift office, said the restaurant has served more than half a million meals since September, when the owner pledged to serve the workers for a full year as a gesture of thanks. ... the owner has already spent more than $200,000 on his own to support the operation.
Photography was restricted in the cleanup area, but it doesn't require a camera to remember most of the things I saw that day. Like Gettysburg, like Pearl Harbor, this is a time and a place that demands we never forget.
In the 10 years since the attack, we've lost Reno and Park - Reno passed away in 2009; his younger brother just this year. The restaurant was never able to recover - its doors closed, its mission fulfilled.
Jeff Fishbein is Sports Editor of The Sentinel.