Rebecca Pierce: Critique and a cry for unity

·3 min read

Sep. 18—We didn't have anything to acknowledge 9/11 on last Sunday's front page of the Record-Eagle.

We had a beautiful full-page tribute on Page 7C Sunday, but some of our readers said they were expecting the recognition of the 21st anniversary of 9/11 out front.

They let me know of their disappointment — in no uncertain terms.

The front page of the Record-Eagle is like a mirror. On any given day, readers should be able to see their community and what matters most reflected there. And they wanted to see 9/11 this past Sunday.

Some people in the news business get caught up in counting the anniversaries of big news stories. They think: 20 years? Big deal. Twenty-one years? Not so much.

It seems a bit arbitrary to me. Why should one more year make such a difference in whether we place a story on the front page or inside or run any story at all?

And at what point does that big story make way for another big news story?

Such questions are the stuff of newsroom debates. The answers are typically based on what else is going on, who you've got to work on it and what the people in a community expect. As far as I'm concerned, that's the most important consideration.

Community expectations are key — and every community is different.

And, in this particular case, there was yet one more consideration for some readers as far as their expectations of our news coverage.

To my surprise, it was how they are feeling about their country right now.

Simply put, they're upset about what's going on. From what I could glean, these readers — part of what might be called a "silent majority" — are upset by all the divisiveness. They are concerned about how people are treating each other, the ugly rhetoric and wild behavior.

When 9/11 happened, they remember a different nation, one that was unified.

One person sadly asked me this rhetorical question: Will it take another 9/11 to bring us together?

I wish I had realized the degree to which reassurance was needed by our readers with some reportorial reminder that we truly do have the ability to come together as a nation.

What happened 21 years ago is powerful proof of that.

And so those readers who saw Monday's edition saw a front page dedicated to 9/11, skillfully done by page designer Aly Kleidon.

Sunday's service at the 911 Memorial Park in Traverse City was outstanding — probably one of the best I've ever attended — and that's saying something. The setting is beautiful.

Behind Grand Traverse Metro Fire Department on Parsons Road, the memorial sits amid a wooded glade. A brick path winds down to the center of the park where part of a steel beam from the World Trade Center's North Tower stands in tribute. As the service recalled the events of Sept. 11, 2001, some in the audience were visibly moved by those memories.

Those of us who remember that day can't help but recall where we were and what we were doing when that shared nightmare began.

We pledged then: Never Forget.

We never will.

Rebecca Pierce is the executive editor of the Traverse City Record-Eagle.