Diane Sawyer Remembers Sept. 11

Charlie and I were on the air as the chaos began that awful morning.

One second, laughing about the desultory topics of the day. The next, on the other side of history.

We were told in our electronic earpieces that there had been an accident and fire at the World Trade Center.

In collective denial, even as the second plane approached, we thought, "Well, it must have been a terrible accident and there's another plane, maybe they're going to try to help."

Then — "No, this can't be, no." The entire Earth turned on its axis. I said, "Oh my God."

I have been in war zones, I have been in sniper fire, I have rushed into scenes where bombs were exploding … and there was nothing to prepare me for the sight of that smoke-encased inferno later that day, that first night.

Still Haunted

My memories from Ground Zero are spectral: the raw shock on the ashen faces … the resolute dedication in the eyes of the firefighters and policemen … the utter destruction with flames suddenly shooting up. As if we were standing on the edge of a crater of a volcano.

I'm still haunted by the mounds of documents and papers, covered in a white, sooty ash. As we sifted through insurance papers, marriage certificates, financial documents — they seemed a sad commentary on perspective.

How important they were … 24 hours earlier.

Recently we gathered together more than 65 women who lost their husbands — all with newborn babies. Behind the radiant smiles of motherhood, a universe of sadness.

Everything changed — except our belief in ourselves.

I love what Ronald Reagan said about our national anthem: that it's the only one that ends with a question mark.

That's still what our country is about to me: seeking, questioning, exploring, heading out to the horizon and then returning to the place we know, to reaffirm the miracle of freedom.