From disbelief to domination of the news agenda: How 9/11 changed The Star

At first we didn’t believe it. Reports of a plane hitting the World Trade Center in New York. Surely not? A helicopter maybe, a crop duster possibly.

Saturday, 11th September 2021, 2:00 am

But no, the reports continued to insist two planes carrying passengers had hit the Twin Towers. And because this was the age of 24/7 news and the internet, footage began to emerge of what had happened.

We managed to include coverage in the evening edition of the paper on the day but details were scant other than the Center had been hit.

Disbelief definitely disappeared as we saw not just one, but two planes flying into the skyscrapers later that day on TV. It was deliberate. We still struggled to comprehend it but now it was clear something had happened which was going to change the world.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

Terrorist attack on the World Trade Centre, New York, September 11, 2001 9/11 Twin Towers

The Star had to get this right. A team was assembled for an early start. Some began at midnight others at 5am, doing 10 pages live using the wall-to-wall reports from across the globe.

This was 10 pages of international news in The Star, the front page to page 10, every day. Unheard of for a regional daily, but a response to such a significant event which would become the template for weeks to come as the world digested what had happened, saw America react and realised that war was now inevitable.

Revenge said our headline on September 12 and the coverage was tagged War on America. It was clear where this was going and sure enough President George W Bush said there would be no hiding place for the killers.

There were also local lines to this story. Tragically, a Sheffield twin was one of the victims of the Twin Towers. Nigel Thompson, son of the city’s coroners officer Norman, was talking to his brother Neil as the attack happened.

"We are under attack,” he yelled down the line to his brother. “We are evacuating NOW!” Then the phone went dead.

How to report this? Dad Norman was a friend to many Star reporters. We were shocked, the world was shocked. But we did what The Star does – try to remain respectful and balanced in our coverage of extraordinary events.