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Phil Lipof reflects on the anniversary of 9/11

September 10, 2013 8:28:40 AM PDT
It was a beautiful, crisp, clear Tuesday morning...in Boston, too. My wife Juli and I had moved back from Miami, to live with my parents in Newton, because my father's cancer had come back. He had just months to live.

It was my Dad who woke us up and said, "Turn on the television, a plane just hit the World Trade Center."

We turned on the TV, and what we saw took our breath away. We immediately called into work, as Juli and I anchored the news together at WHDH. It was our day off, but we said we were on our way in. We got dressed, and before we could leave the house, we got a call back from my boss.

"Don't you live on Baldpate Hill Road?" he asked.

I said yes. My boss then said something that took my breath away for the second time in less than 15 minutes.

"We believe someone who lives on your street was on Flight 11," he said. "Do you know Richard Ross?"

My heart sank.

Richard was a good friend of the family, and my parents had just spent time with him and his wife a few weeks earlier. It was the first time that horrific day became real. Living in Boston, being so close to New York, it took something like that to make it real.

For the next 18 days, we worked long shifts, 12 hours on, 12 hours off. Juli and I were live from Logan Airport for days on end. So many security breaches had led to the hijackers being able to take two planes. It was our big story in Boston. We of course sent reporters to New York City, like the rest of the world, but when you are doing local news, you have to cover how the national story in affects your town as well.

Emotionally, Juli and I were processing the tragedy like everyone else, but we had our own added emotional baggage too. Juli was 3 months pregnant with our first child Daniella. She had horrible morning sickness and was throwing up in between live shots. I don't know how she did it. Still, at the end of our 12 hour shifts, we rushed home to help my mother care for my father, who was now very ill.

I was becoming a father, while losing my father, in the middle of all this national grief and pain. It was a very dark time for the nation and, personally, for me and my family.

My father died on November 20, 2001, at the age of 62. Two weeks later, my station sent me to Israel for an 11-part series on terrorism. Four months after that, my daughter Daniella was born. I swear it took six months for our heads to stop spinning. I wanted life to just pause...long enough to catch my breath.

I wound up spending some time during Shiva (the traditional week Jews mourn at home for a loved one) with Richard Ross' wife. I remember sitting there in her kitchen. We didn't need to speak much. Sometimes, we just shared a glass of wine. We were both in pain, both suffering trauma, although for very different reasons. It was comforting for me, and I hope for her as well.

I was 28 at the time, an adult for sure. But I grew up in so many ways over those few dark months.

Fall was always my father's favorite season...mine too...but for several years, all I could feel was sadness and grief during those months.

Then, something changed in 2006. I took a job here at WABC. By now, we had Daniella and Dylan. We moved from Boston, away from our families, to the Tri-State. Our first fall here just seemed different. It was new.

We've been here for seven years now. My dad has been gone 12, just like the thousands who died on 9/11. Every year, it gets a little better, but never really easier. Everyone deals with loss in their own way, everyone grieves in their own time. In 2001, my thoughts and prayers were with all of you who were here on 9/11. Now in 2013, my heart is here too.

All of us in Boston on 9/11 were with you, as you were with us for the recent Marathon bombings. Together, we move forward...united and stronger.

PHIL LIPOF


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