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Badges of Courage for 9/11 Coverage

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Badges of Courage for 9/11 Coverage

Neshan H. Naltchayan

Savannah Guthrie and Jim Miklaszewski. Photo by Neshan H. Naltchayan.

It was an emotional night for nine journalists from radio and television who distinguished themselves for their coverage of 9/11.

The Radio-Television Digital News Foundation held their annual First Amendment Awards Dinner at the Ritz-Carlton, and some attendees had harrowing stories to share.

ABC News Radio’s Ann Compton was aboard Air Force One, complete with multiple TV sets recessed in the bulkhead. “As [we] flew that day in circles around the United States, we were able to watch very hazy pictures showing the destruction and the towers tumbling,” she said.

There was no way to share information, though, until the plane refueled in Louisiana where they had access to landlines. Journalists feared that as they watched the terror unfold, reporters would be left behind on the tarmac in the name of national security.  A lot of people were indeed left behind -- including members of Congress -- but reporters reboarded.

Score one for the freedom of the press.

"I have such bitter recollections of that day,” said Charlie Kaye of CBS Radio. “I remember the weather as perfect as it gets... I remember the atmosphere in the newsroom... almost tranquil as we all faced what we knew would be the defining days of our careers, as the world we thought we knew ended so dramatically and so quickly.”

NPR’s Melissa Black, host of "All Things Considered," said each anniversary feels like a “sucker punch” and this is like reliving it all over again. “For those of us who were in Manhattan on that day,” she said, “[there] was such a beautiful, cobalt blue sky and unseasonably warm day... punctured by the evil which is hard to imagine even today.”

“On behalf of all of us at NBC News, I thank you for remembering those of us who just did our jobs," said Rehema Ellis, "because when you remember us, you remember and honor all the thousands of people that lost their lives that day. “  

Other recipients included Martha Raddatz (ABC News), Warren Levinson (AP Radio), Byron Pitts (CBS News), Jeanne Meserve (CNN) and Rick Leventhal (Fox News).

The night was owned by Wolf Blitzer though, after comical outtakes of Blitzer over the years lightened the mood and filled the big screens. The clips were compiled by the quirky Jeanne Moos of CNN, and her recap of Blitzer’s tenacious interview with Lynne Cheney was beyond hysterical as the veteran newscaster prodded her about her husband, even though Cheney was scheduled to talk about her new book.

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