We thought a wayward private plane had crashed into the tower. Watching CNN from my desk in the newsroom at about 8:30 that morning, we quickly realized that this was no small plane and this was no small accident.
I remember going into the studio to do the day's news look-ahead, and shakily stating what the big story of the day — as it turned out, of recent history — would likely be.
This week, the world marks the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. Suffice it to say, all people who were sentient at the time have their personal memories, and fortunately I had the opportunity to chronicle my thoughts in a column I wrote for the Press-Republican in the aftermath of the disaster.
Allow me to revisit some of those reflections, which in retrospect, have a certain irony.
From Sept. 21, 2001:
"The looming war on terrorism, just as it is destined to be like no other war, leaves Canada in the position of being bound to a military action by its NATO commitment, coupled with a very personal reaction to the terrorist attacks — the fact is the suicide hijackers didn't just kill Americans.
"The estimate at this hour is that at least 75 Canadians are among the people missing in the World Trade Center bombings. Almost all of these people would have been among the best and brightest who, buying into the "make it there, make it anywhere" vision, headed off to the Big Apple to make their mark.
"By any measure, the loss of 75 citizens in one blow, whether to natural disaster or human folly, is a catastrophe of the first magnitude. That they were innocent victims of fanatical murderers only compounds the heart-wrenching loss and helplessness.
"Prime Minister Jean Chrétien, who travels to Washington next week as part of President Bush's round of consultations on the war on terrorism, was about as explicit as a leader could be in expressing Canada's solidarity with the United States.
"Speaking to the estimated 100,000 Canadians gathered on Parliament Hill in Ottawa for the day of mourning last Friday, he had this to say: 'Generation after generation, we have traveled many difficult miles together. Side by side, we have lived through many dark times, always firm in our shared resolve to vanquish any threat to freedom and justice. And together, with our allies, we will defy and defeat the threat that terrorism poses to all civilized nations ... We will be with the United States every step of the way. As friends. As neighbors. As family.'
"Whatever contribution Canada eventually makes to the war on terrorism — and critics have been quick to lambaste the Liberal government's tepid commitment to defence spending — Canadians will continue to do what they find most natural in time of crisis."
As it turns out, when Chrétien said "every step of the way" he could not have anticipated that the Bush White House would make one of those steps the invasion of Iraq.
Canada did dutifully sign on for the purge of the Taliban regime in Afghanistan, a mission that ended in July, although personnel will remain for non-military work.
But Chrétien, sniffing the political wind, rejected entreaties from the United States to join the invasion of Iraq, a mission the current Prime Minister Stephen Harper supported at the time.
In an interview this week, Harper says Canada is safer now from terrorism than it was before the attacks. Harper, now heading a majority government, says he will beef up the anti-terrorism law adopted in 2001 in reaction to 9/11, giving law-enforcement authorities extraordinary powers.
The war on terrorism, including transport security measures and the military commitment in Afghanistan, has cost Canada an estimated $92 billion since 2001, according to a study released this week.
Still and all, despite the differences wrought by Iraq, the family connection remains solid and the grief, we suspect, little diminished, 10 years later.
Peter Black is a radio broadcaster and writer based in Quebec City. He has worked on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, in Montreal as a newspaper reporter and editor, and as a translator and freelance writer. He can be reached at email@example.com.