Kelly Boldan: Sept. 11 — A day of infamy for a new generation

The terrorist attack on the United States on Sept. 11, 2001, was a day of infamy for the 21st-century generation. It was a day that struck at the heart of America's confidence, much like the Pearl Harbor attack on Dec. 7, 1941.

The West Central Tribune's front page from Sept. 12, 2001, the day after Sept. 11, 2001's terrorist attacks on America. West Central Tribune photo

I always wondered how my parents — my father who was a laborer in our hometown of Motley and my mother who was a teacher in rural Osakis — felt when the Japanese naval forces attacked America at Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941.

On Sept. 11, 2001, I found out how an unprovoked sneak attack on America felt.

It was a shock. It was outrage. It was fear.

I still remember.

The West Central Tribune's front page from Sept. 12, 2001, still hangs in my office with the headline: "Terrorist attacks: Hijacked airplanes slam into World Trade Center, Pentagon." Many in the Tribune newsroom that day still are here and were led by news editor Susan Lunneborg.



At the time, I was the editor at the Bemidji Pioneer, another Forum Communications Co. newspaper in northern Minnesota. The next day's Pioneer head read: "America Attacked: Terrorists strike New York City, Washington."
That day, I had a 10 a.m. appointment for a final phone call to discuss the editor position here at the West Central Tribune in Willmar. That phone appointment was quickly rescheduled for another day.

That September Tuesday morning I was eating breakfast in my rural Bemidji home and my wife was working a nursing day shift. As I turned on the television, a network newscaster described a plane (later identified as American Airlines Flight 11) that had accidentally crashed at 8:46:40 a.m. into the World Trade Center's North Tower in New York City.

Kelly Boldan has been the editor of the West Central Tribune of Willmar since October, 2001. Erica Dischino / West Central Tribune file photo

As I continued watching the live network news from the scene, a second jetliner (later identified as United Airlines Flight 175) at 9:03:02 a.m. flew right into the World Trade Center's South Tower between the 77th and 85th floors.

My first thought was "this is no accident." I quickly called my Bemidji publisher Dennis Doeden and said I'd get into the office right away.

By the time I arrived in the Pioneer newsroom, a third jet — American Flight 77 — at 9:37:46 a.m. crashed into The Pentagon in Washington, D.C.


As I began planning for the next day's story budget and keeping an eye on TV in my office, it was reported that United Flight 93 crashed at 10:03:11 a.m. into a field in Shanksville, Pennsylvania.

Soon after, my son, a college student in Salt Lake City, called my mobile phone asking "what the hell is going on." I tried to reassure him for a few minutes though I was just as worried, then I got back to work.

Pioneer news staff soon arrived to begin the work on the next day's newspaper. We knew it would be a memorable one.

Our Pioneer team included our publisher Doeden, Opinion page editor Brad Swenson, reporters Molly Miron, Devlyn Brooks and Robby Robinson, photographer Monte Draper and night editor Jerry Madson.

Later that night as the Pioneer staff were putting the final touches on our front page, our photographer came in from a college sports assignment and said there was a multi-block line of cars waiting for gas at a downtown Bemidji station. People had panicked about getting their cars filled up with gasoline.

A reporter headed out the door to get a quick story and others began reworking the front page for a late-breaking gas line story.

As the press started up at midnight, we all sighed as the historic Sept. 12 issue rolled off the Pioneer press and route carriers headed out the door.

We found ourselves wondering what the next day would bring.


It was well past midnight when I stopped to fill up my own car's empty gas tank. Fortunately, I did not have to wait in line.

Twenty years later, I still remember the shock. The outrage. The fear.

I had learned how my parents and their parents felt on Dec. 7, 1941.

It was our generation's day of infamy seared into our memories forever.

We remember.

Kelly Boldan served as editor of the Bemidji Pioneer for three years and was named editor of the West Central Tribune in October 2001.

Opinion by Kelly Boldan
Kelly Boldan has been editor of West Central Tribune and in Willmar, Minnesota, since October 2001. He joined Forum Communications Co. in November 1998 as editor of the Bemidji (Minn.) Pioneer.
Boldan can be reached via email: or telephone: 320-214-4331.
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