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Looking back, and forward

I have nothing exciting to add to the where-were-you-on-9/11 recollections today. I was in my office at Loyola when the first plane hit. I called Kathleen, because it seemed to be a remarkable thing, and then the second plane hit. A class was meeting across the hall, and the instructor had turned the television on. One of the students sat quietly sobbing in the corner. Her father worked in the World Trade Center. I taught my class and headed immediately to The Sun, knowing that it would be a night to demand all our resources.

In that humble sequence of events, I duplicated what millions of my fellow citizens did: I registered horror, and I got down to work. There were things to do to try to make the world right again.

The attacks of September 11 were not the only events remembered in Baltimore today. This is the weekend on which Maryland marks Defenders’ Day, commemorating the time in 1814 when Baltimoreans, knowing that the militia had crumbled before the British regulars, that the Capitol and White House had been burned, and that they were next, stood up to the attack and, unknowingly, supplied the United States with a national anthem. Rockets’ red glare is being seen above Fort McHenry again, this time a symbol of our resilience.

Today was also the day that the Enoch Pratt Free Library sponsored its annual Mencken Day lecture, this year delivered by Jonathan Yardley. (Can’t tell you what he said; I’ve been at the paragraph factory.) Whatever Mencken’s faults and limitations—and they were considerable—he tirelessly worked as a journalist to inform the public, he celebrated the American language, he fostered talent in writers, and he championed liberty.

Here on Calvert Street, we are marking a more personal event, the retirement of Dick Irwin, for decades an indefatigable police reporter. You can—and should— read Peter Hermann’s tribute to him here. Mr. Irwin’s determination to worm out facts, to get them down right, and to provide them to the public never flagged. He is also a gentleman through and through. In The Sun’s newsroom, which is like all others in the frictions that develop when people are working closely, under pressure, and on deadline, I’ve never heard a single person speak ill of Dick Irwin.

I’ve collected these apparently random associations because they collectively suggest a key thing to me about this troubled day. Like the Baltimoreans of 1814, we see a threat and prepare ourselves to repel it. And we do that by buckling down to our proper work. In my case, as in Henry Mencken’s and Dick Irwin’s in our respective fields, it is to do what I can to provide accurate, intelligible information to the public so that we, still a free people, can make decisions about our lives from reasoned judgments and resolve, rather than from fear and panic. Stay steady. There’s more work to be done.


Posted by John McIntyre at 11:17 PM | | Comments (5)


Not one word about Americas interventionism that lead the way for S11. While the U.S. continues to kill innocent Muslims in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan, ask yourself if the relatives of those innocent victims will also NEVER FORGET.

At a time when we're seeing complaints that we all seem to want more for less, it's refreshing to see your levelheaded advice to recognize the problem and do our jobs. I really think that's the attitude that has made our country great, but I keep wondering if it's been lost somewhere. Thanks for reassuring me that it's still there, in people like you.

On Sept. 11, 2001, I listened to the radio bulletins from 8 a.m. until the newspaper where I worked asked me to come to work; it wasn't my regular day to work, but I readily agreed.

When I heard the Pentagon was hit, I called my brother's home because he works there. I was able to reach my brother in the afternoon. He was not in the Pentagon when the plane hit, and he mourns the people he knew who died or were injured.

It was 11th September that led US and others into that miserable part of the world. It was the many terrorist attacks- embassy bombings, USS Cole,first WTC attack - that led us to 11th September in the first place. I refuse to subscribe to the wailers who keep asking "Why do they hate us?" Did anyone care why the usual jackals throughout history hated the rest of the world? They did not. They just got on with the job of defeating them.

Nicely written, John.

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About John McIntyre
John McIntyre, mild-mannered editor for a great metropolitan newspaper, has fussed over writers’ work, to sporadic expressions of gratitude, for thirty years. He is The Sun’s night content production manager and former head of its copy desk. He also teaches editing at Loyola University Maryland. A former president of the American Copy Editors Society, a native of Kentucky, a graduate of Michigan State and Syracuse, and a moderate prescriptivist, he writes about language, journalism, and arbitrarily chosen topics. If you are inspired by a spirit of contradiction, comment on the posts or write to him at
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