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CBS 2’s Don Dahler Recounts September 11 Experience

NEW YORK (CBS 2) — It was perhaps the most-witnessed event in world history. Hundreds of thousands of people saw the September 11 attacks with their own eyes here in Manhattan and New Jersey, and millions more watched in horror around the world on TV.

One of the first reporters on the scene that morning was CBS 2’s Don Dahler.

LINK: 9/11, 10 Years Later

You never think you’re living history, but on September 11, we all witnessed one of the crystalline moments of world history – a moment so pivotal it was as if the earth stopped and then everything set off on a different spin.

It has all changed for us, for America, for the world: the rules of how we live, of whom we trust, of how we view our own security, of how we conduct war, of how we define peace, of what we hold most important.

On the morning of 9/11, Dahler was living in an apartment on the third floor, just a few blocks north of the World Trade Center. He was working for ABC News at the time, and had just poured a cup of coffee when he heard the crash.

It was like a giant ripping of fabric, a shriek and deep roar all at once, followed by a huge explosion. It was a sound he’d heard before, but only in countries at war, never in the U.S. and certainly not in lower Manhattan.

“I think that was a missile,” he said out loud.

Almost immediately, the morning news began reporting that a small plane had hit the World Trade Center. He knew it wasn’t a small plane, even if he didn’t yet know what it was.

Dahler found his phone, made his way out onto a fire escape where he had a clear view of the Towers, and called into the network.

That’s where he was on 9/11, talking live on national television when the second plane hit.

“There’s more and more fire and smoke enveloping the top of the building. And as fire crews are descending on this area, it does not appear that there is any kind of effort up there yet, now remember… oh my God,” he said as the second plane hit.

Over the next two weeks, he didn’t leave the area, afraid the police wouldn’t let him back in. What Dahler remembers most are the faces and voices, of the rescuers who refused to give up, who worked themselves to exhaustion.

Also, the faces and voices of the people searching for their loved ones. Their eyes said “tell me you saw this person walking around, or in a hospital, or being interviewed, or sitting dazed by the street. Please tell me you saw them, alive.”

The fact that he could never once answer “yes” is why he can never forget the question.

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