We Will never know what the front pages of life will bring

Each spring, towards the end of the school year, various classes typically take a tour of the Fort Frances Times. Invariably, as the youngsters crowd around my desk, I tell them that one of the most interesting things about being an editor is not knowing exactly what will end up on the front page when I walk into the office each day.
Oh sure, there’s the daily routine of reading through the CP wire copy, assigning stories and editing the reporters’ copy of local events, sending back submitted items to be typeset, choosing and sizing pictures, and then laying out the pages–deciding which stories will go where, and which ones get left out.
It’s the never really knowing that keeps the job fresh–and exciting.
Yesterday, heading to work down Third Street West at 7:45 a.m., I already was planning the front page in my head. A story previewing a meeting here that night on Métis hunting rights, and pictures of the CUPE march on Scott Street–attended by Ontario president Sid Ryan–from the night before.
Carole Mackintosh also had submitted a story on the Pairs ’n Squares club resuming its activities that night.
Nationally, I was anticipating stories on the new coalition in Parliament between the federal Tories and the rebel Alliance MPs who defied Stockwell Day’s ultimatum and Monday noon deadline to return to the party. There also was the start of the trial of two police officers in Saskatoon accused of dumping a native man on the outskirts of that city in the dead of winter.
Then there was that intriguing story of the arrest of the man believed responsible for the hijacking of an Air Canada flight, enroute from Thunder Bay to Toronto, to Cuba some 30 years ago.
On the international front, you could always count on a story of the on-going violence in the Middle East, or of the deplorable situation in Belfast involving the young Catholic girls trying to get to their school in a Protestant neighbourhood.
No doubt there would be an update on Hurricane Erin churning in the Atlantic Ocean off the eastern seaboard, and maybe on NATO efforts to confiscate rebel weapons in Macedonia.
And in sports, there was the American and National League round-ups (including Roger Clemens’ bid to go 20-1 being washed out), Denver’s convincing win over the New York Giants on Monday Night Football, and Michael Jordan all but admitting his return to the NBA.
That all went out the window within 15 minutes.
Around 8 a.m., just after I had fired up my computer but before I headed back to the coffee room for my first cup of tea, circulation manager Pam Munn, getting a call from her husband, Terry, called out that a plane had hit the World Trade Center in New York City.
What a terrible accident, I thought, as publisher Jim Cumming called up the first image from the CNN Web site on his computer.
Then, before we could turn on the TV in the back, in came reports of a second plane slamming into the second “twin tower.” This, clearly, was no accident–and suddenly, without anyone here possibly knowing it upon waking up, Sept. 11, 2001 had become etched forever into our hearts and minds, and history.
We all know now how the rest of the morning unfolded. A third hijacked jetliner slammed into the Pentagon outside Washington, D.C. The first tower collapsed. A fourth hijacked plane crashed into a field near Pittsburgh, perhaps aiming for the presidential retreat at Camp David, Md. Then the second tower collapsed.
It may be days, even weeks, before the final terrible death toll is known.
As someone who’s enjoyed the spectacular view from atop the World Trade Center, and someone who flew to New Orleans and back via Chicago only two weeks ago, the sheer magnitude of yesterday’s horrific chain of events hit hard. What if terrorists had decided to strike when Cheryl and I were up on the roof that sunny summer day 11 years ago, or use the flight we were on last month as a “suicide missile”?
Yesterday morning, I couldn’t have fathomed what would be on the front page that day. I don’t know–for sure–this morning, either, nor will I tomorrow, or next Wednesday.
The same lesson holds true for our own lives. We never know–for sure–what will unfold each day. Yet few of us wake up thinking, “This might be my last day on Earth. I’d better make it a good one.”
Yesterday was a sombre reminder that maybe we should.

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