One of the challenges of working on a weekly deadline is that history occasionally overwhelms even seemingly extraordinary concerns; a story that seems huge one day seems absolutely pedestrian the next. We went to bed Monday, Sept. 10, 2001, preparing to run Anthony Pignataro's "Bleccccccccccch! A people's environmental impact report on El Toro International Airport" on that Thursday's cover. We awoke Tuesday to discover that the cover image we'd chosen—an airplane in flames (thanks again, NASA!)—would seem either weirdly prescient or profoundly inappropriate by Sept. 13.
Pignataro's story still ran that week, but we decided early Tuesday to turn over the news section—and our cover—to the 9/11 attacks. Our staff fanned out across the county to discover what marginal observers were saying about the attacks. At Costa Mesa's Calvary Chapel, they prayed God would give them "strength and spirit in these Last Days"; people felt many things that day, but we're still struggling to forgive them their cowardice. A plumber of obvious evangelical inclinations told Steve Lowery, "I know it seems horrible, but for me, this is an exciting time. All this is part of God's plan. You can see His hand in all of this. I mean, it's a shame that tens of thousands of people have to die, but you have to look at this over the long haul. Things are happening now, and I think this is the beginning of the end." We pray for his everlasting soul.
The Weekly typically goes to press on Tuesday afternoon; our report ("Nuts Drive Nuts Nuts!") and the final cover (a street scene shot a few blocks from Ground Zero) were the work of just a few hours.
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When the paper came out, we were gathered as planned in Huntington Beach for Old World's annual Oktoberfest feeding frenzy for the press. Never did so many journalists pass up so much fine food; never were such lively people so somber. The wiener dogs ran; buxom servers served; an early fall breeze swept leaves along empty sidewalks.