Former Associated Press journalist Robyn Pfaffman recounted her time watching the events of Sept. 11, 2001 unfold around her more than 20 years ago in Lower Manhattan.
“I thought it was really the end…And I can honestly tell you that 21 years later, I still have not fully processed the events of that day,” the veteran journalist said during an interview on the Todd Starnes Radio Show.
“I was standing right near the Twin Towers and both buildings were on fire… and looking up those buildings had already been hit indescribably,” she told Starnes.
Even in the midst of the chaos and destruction, Pfaffman recalls an instant in which she witnessed a glimmer of hope.
“I dropped the phone and I ran away and encountered a lady who tried to go back the other way, who thought her husband was alive. She had heard from someone before all the cells went out. And I grabbed this woman’s arm and I said, ‘Ma’am, you cannot go back there.’ And all of a sudden, her husband, appeared in the street, and they had this, beautiful, emotional reunion and she’s, screaming, wailing in the street that he’s alive…
“This guy is, covered head to toe and his hair was shampooed in plaster. And he had big sweat rings under his arm, no jacket, half his shoe on.And he was like on the 67th floor, literally in the North Tower, right below where the first plane, that evil terrorist, Mohamed Atta, flew that plane into Tower One, just a few floors above him, and he was able to get everyone on his floor out alive. And he was alive as well. And I have to tell you, Todd, I worked in New York that day, the next day, 72 hours later, weeks and years later. And that was the only good story.”
Pfaffman warns of future attacks on America saying, “We are still asleep at the wheel and we are back at a Sept. 10 mentality the day before Sept. 11. We don’t know who is in this country or what they’re up to.”
In order to survive another terrorist attack, Pfaffman says the following needs to happen, “We have to be not only as tough as they are, we have to be tougher than they are. We have to be smarter than they are. And we’re not thinking smart as a country. I know that people are very polarized… But let me tell you something, you’re not going to have any time for social issues when there is another terrorist attack on America and they do something, God forbid, worse.”
Like many Pfaffman describes the time following 9/11 as a time of unity as a country. “On 9/12, we weren’t Democrats and Republicans. We weren’t Black and White and Chinese and Jews and Christians. We were Americans, one nation under God. We were one people, united.”
Pfaffman worries that the new generation of Americans have become “wussified” compared to the generation after 9/11 in which high school students, even younger than 18 were signing up for the military, “I’m not sure we have that will today with all the wokeness that’s going on.”
In conclusion, Pfaffman talks about her book for charity that she wrote along with other journalists called Covering Catastrophe. According to Pfaffman the book is about, “9/11 through the eyes of the people who saw it, not on TV, but the people who stood there and actually saw it all unfold at the Pentagon and Shanksville and New York.” The book is completely charity based and “I (Pfaffman) don’t make a penny from it.”
Listen to the full conversation here:
The following is a rush transcript from the Todd Starnes Show which airs daily from noon to 3:00 p.m. EST.
TODD STARNES: [01:36:35] I want to go to the Patriot Mobile Newsmaker Line, a good friend of this program, a former colleague at the Fox News corner of the world. Journalist Robyn Pfaffman joins us again. This is like a double dose of Robyn this week. [01:36:46][11.4]
ROBYN PFAFFMAN: [01:36:50] Yeah. Hey, Todd, can you hear me okay? Cause I’m on the road. [01:36:52][2.2]
STARNES: [01:36:53] Robyn, you’re coming in loud and clear, and I wanted you to come back on the program because you have a very unique perspective on what happened 21 years ago, Sunday, when the Muslim terrorist waged Jihad on our country. I want you to tell our listeners where you were on that day and what were you doing. [01:37:14][21.2]
PFAFFMAN: [01:37:15] Well, sadly, I was standing right near the Twin Towers and both buildings were on fire. I was working for Associated Press at the time, Todd, and looking up at those buildings had already been hit indescribably. And I’m thinking to myself, you know, how in the world are the firefighters going to get up there? And I had been in the ’93 bombing when radical Islamic terrorists targeted the Twin Towers and wanted to topple it the first time, eight years earlier. And I’m thinking how, you know, and I had all my facts and figures, you know, it’s 110 stories tall and the governor’s office is on this floor and this company is on that floor. And I’m thinking to myself, how in the world are the firefighters going to get up there to put this thing out when all of a sudden, Todd, I’m on the phone in a live shot with the Associated Press in Washington and I start hearing people screaming, you know, you have to rewind the clock to 21 years ago when there were payphones and people are screaming, oh, my God, oh, my God, oh, my God. I’m thinking in my own mind, what is worse than both buildings on fire when the South Tower is collapsing in slow motion and police officers are shouting, you know, this is a family show. Get the blank out, get the blank out. And people are screaming and running and crying and are in stunned silence. And I dropped the phone and I ran away and encountered a lady who tried to go back the other way, who thought her husband was, you know, alive. She had heard from someone before all the cells went out. And I grabbed this woman’s arm and I said, Ma’am, I said, you cannot go back there. You cannot go back there. And all of a sudden, her husband, like, appeared in the street, Todd, and they had this, like, beautiful, emotional reunion and she’s, you know, screaming, wailing in the street that he’s alive. And this guy is, like, covered head to toe in shampoo, his hair was like shampooed in plaster. And he had the big sweat rings under his arm, no jacket, half the shoe on. And he had survived because he had been there. Again, I’m referencing ’93. He was a warden, like a civilian fire warden, where you would be in charge if there was ever any trouble ever again in the building that you would be in charge of getting everyone out off your floor. And he was like on the 67th floor, literally in the North Tower, right below where the first plane, that evil terrorist, Mohamed Atta, flew that plane into Tower One, just a few floors above him. And this guy’s name is Chuck M. I’ll never forget it. My whole life, Chuck and Jean M. He worked hard for the Port Authority and he was able to get everyone on his floor out alive. And he was alive as well. And I have to tell you, Todd, I worked in New York that day, the next day, 72 hours later, weeks and years later. And that was the only good story. Todd, I can honestly tell you, I reported on for weeks, months, and years later, was their emotional reunion, this married couple. [01:40:40][204.7]
STARNES: [01:40:41] Robyn, at the time you were a journalist for Associated Press. Did you have any recollection of the magnitude of what was happening that day? You’re reporting, you’ve dropped the phone. You’re running like everybody else through the streets of New York City. What was going through your mind? [01:40:56][15.6]
PFAFFMAN: [01:40:59] I thought it was really the end. There was one point where the dust cloud was so deep and dark for those who have seen it on television that I hid out in one of like a restaurant in New York City, the basements are below ground where you go into a restaurant and like the freezers are below ground. And I was with about 12 strangers hiding out in this restaurant, and we had a TV. And, you know, we were kind of watching what was going on. And at that point, we didn’t know about Shanksville or Washington. We had heard rumors. We thought that they were going to blow up the U.N., Central Park, you know, this that, city hall. And then all of a sudden, you heard F-16s overhead. I mean, when in the world is an F-16 flying over New York City, a place where I grew up and went to graduate school at New York University? I mean, every picture I owned was of the Twin Towers. I grew up in New Jersey as a little girl watching that building go up. So it was very personal to me. And at that moment in time, it’s kind of like being the emergency room doctor where you’re thinking about someone who got shot in the head with a bullet and you’re just trying to do your job and find the next phone. And I can honestly tell you that 21 years later, I still have not fully processed the events of that day. [01:42:27][87.5]
STARNES: [01:42:28] And going back and just reliving those moments. Robyn, there was no Twitter. There was no Facebook. Very few people had, you know, the cell phones that actually worked because the cell phone towers were on top of the World Trade Center and they were gone. There really was a news blackout, aside from what was happening on TV, and the radio. [01:42:51][22.8]
PFAFFMAN: [01:42:51] Yeah. And I would also tell you that the only news people that fully understood what was going on were people like myself who had covered the 1993 World Trade Center bombing. And then I also covered the federal trial of the blind sheik, who they used to call Santa Claus, Sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman, and Ramzi Yousef, the two radical Islamic terrorist plotters. And at the trial, Andrew McCarthy, who we all see on Fox News now as a contributor. He was the prosecutor Todd at trial. And I sat in that courtroom as a young woman in my thirties, and he says, Your Honor, in his opening statement, Your Honor, it was the goal of these two terrorists to topple the towers. And I’m sitting there and I’m thinking, well, when did it ever stop being the goal? Like 9/11? You forward up the clock eight years later and you realize that Osama Bin Laden and all his little engineering terrorist friends, they are smarter than us and they are more patient than we are. And that guy, that terrorist thug, sat in a cave and plotted this out meticulously over eight years while we as a nation were asleep at the wheel. And let me tell you, let me be the first to tell you. We are still asleep at the wheel and we are back at a 9/10 mentality the day before 9/11. We don’t know who is in this country or what they’re up to. [01:44:22][90.8]
STARNES: [01:44:23] Robyn It’s a great point. And you’re right, we don’t know what’s been coming across that border. We do know we have seen the evidence. We have seen the prayer rugs and the Korans. We have seen the evidence of people coming across that may, quite frankly, be intent on doing us harm. And it’s as if nobody really cares about that. That’s one of the reasons I was so thankful that President Trump got elected because they knew he was going to fight back. He was going to punch back Robyn. [01:44:54][30.7]
PFAFFMAN: [01:44:56] Yeah, that’s very true. And, you know, you have to be not only as tough as they are, you have to be tougher than they are. We have to be smarter than they are. And we’re not thinking smart as a country. I know that people are very polarized. Todd, on their views on social issues. But let me tell you something, you’re not going to have any time for social issues when there is another terrorist attack on America and they do something, God forbid, worse, nobody’s going to have. You know, that’s the thing about 9/11. On 9/12, we weren’t Democrats and Republicans. We weren’t Black and White and Chinese and Jews and Christians. We were Americans, one nation under God. We were one people, united. Look at what has happened to us and how we have unraveled as a society and how polarized we are. What has happened to the feeling of 9/12 when we were one and united? And I think that you know, a lot of us have issues, you know, with George W. Bush, the son and this, that and the other. But you know what? The moment that sticks out for me when he’s gone one day, the most powerful thing out of his mouth was when he stood on the pile with the firefighter and the megaphone and said, you know, we hear you and the rest of the world will be hearing us, too, you know, paraphrasing here, because he had the fight in him. He had the fight and he had the will. And we had Americans who stepped up, men and women who joined the Army, who joined the military, who joined the Air Force, the Navy and the Marines to serve, to fight back. I’m not sure we have that will today with all the wokeness that’s going on. [01:46:40][104.7]
STARNES: [01:46:41] You know, Robyn, I meet your spot on here. I remember the movie with Nicolas Cage about the World Trade Center. And one of the stories there was a guy who was working, I believe, as an accountant who went down. He is a marine veteran. He got his gear went down to the pile, then came back, quit his job, and rejoined the military to fight in the war. I mean, that was the mentality then, where you had a lot of young men, young boys in high school, 17, 18-years-old, heading over to the recruitment offices, wanting to join in for the fight. [01:47:18][36.2]
PFAFFMAN: [01:47:19] And now think about how pathetic we are as a country. A virus? No, I’m not saying that people didn’t die from the coronavirus. I think the virus is a very serious medical issue. Correct. But look at how some of us have been acting boo-hoo-hoo-ing in the basement playing video games, 24/7, not being productive. There was a point where we could all get out and have our students be learning in the classroom. This is ridiculous. We have I mean, for lack of a better word, I don’t know what have we wussified the nation. I’m not even sure what the word would be. Right. But we’re not of that mentality, Todd, that we were on 9/12. There was also a famous athlete who left the NFL, I believe, who also went and signed up. His name at the moment is escaping me. But we really need the testicular fortitude here to press ahead, because we’re going to be in a lot of trouble between Iran, between China, between a lot of other entities of countries that do not like us, that hate our guts, that want America to go down. They thought the terrorists, you know, think about it, Todd. What else would you use? What else would you use as a target? Where else would you take out 50,000 people in under an hour? There was only one place, and that was the Twin Towers in New York City. So they had their eye on the ball. And I hate to say it out loud, but I think the current building. That could be a target again. I think that they could go for the trifecta very easily. [01:48:57][97.2]
STARNES: [01:48:58] By the way, Pat Tillman is the football player you were talking about and he was killed. He was killed in Afghanistan in the early days of the war. Robyn Pfaffman, a former colleague of mine at Fox News, we worked together for many years in midtown Manhattan. And Robyn, you know, you talk about even the news was transformed after 9/11. That’s when I think Fox News Channel really exploded onto the national scene and became a force for good in this country. [01:49:28][29.8]
PFAFFMAN: [01:49:29] Yeah, I agree with that. And then you remember the crawl people, see, you know, the crawl little words that go across your TV screen. They’re doing you know if you’re doing a story on, you know, baseball and then, you know, people want to know what’s going on with the queen. You see it as a breaking news banner across the bottom of the screen. It’s called The Crawl. Yeah, I think that there there is good in that. I think that but I’m with President Trump that there’s a lot of fake news, a lot of bias. I think that the level of fake news and liberalism has infiltrated the media like cancer. You see things you don’t know if they’re true or false. I think that common sense is not so common these days. But I will say this, it’s a very hard time for me personally. In the last year, my husband and I, we lost a dear friend, a retired New York City policeman by the name of Billy Kelly. He was with the forensics unit. He searched for human remains on the pile. He was relocated to the search and rescue effort when all the debris was being dumped over by Staten Island looking for human remains, body parts, or the tiniest of body parts. The toxins got on his head. He got skin cancer. It spread to his pancreas and liver. And then in September of this past year has it’s this it’s not even a year that he’s gone. He died in October of ’21. It spread to his brain and Billy is gone. And the pain of 9/11 and the health effects and the PTSD, the psychological effect. Todd, as you may or may not remember about me, I can’t go to what July 4th celebration with fireworks, the surprise noises. Take me back to going out the window that I thought it was furniture at first, you know, like playing in desk out. It wasn’t until days later that I had TV and saw that that were bodies and not death. And it will never leave me till the day I die. I mean, I admit I’m the first to admit that I have severe PTSD and I am far from alone. For most of America, 9/11 was a TV event. For those of us who saw it with our own eyes, it’s a very different story. I have a charity book on Amazon called Covering Catastrophe that we put together of journalists in New York, DC, and Pennsylvania. 9/11 through the eyes of the people who saw it, not on TV, but the people who stood there and actually saw it all unfold at the Pentagon and Shanksville and New York. It’s a charity project. I don’t make a penny from it. It’s called Covering Catastrophe. It’s still sold on Amazon. I remember at the time thinking we better get the facts down and people’s testimony. That’s right. Before we get the grassy knoll theory people. [01:52:27][177.3]
STARNES: [01:52:29] And Robyn we’ve got a link to that book on our live show blog. And folks, I would encourage you to get yourself a copy. Robyn, you know how this goes. We are really up against a hard break here. Thank you for coming on and sharing your story about that terrible day so long ago. [01:52:44][15.4]
PFAFFMAN: [01:52:46] God bless America. God bless you, Todd. And the station. Thank you. [01:52:49][3.1]
STARNES: [01:52:49] All right, Robyn Pfaffman, ladies and gentlemen. And again, we have the book Covering Catastrophe. We got to take a break. We’ll be right back. [01:52:56][6.9]