Monday, September 11, 2017

EXTRA: How many people saw 'Extras'

One of the memories I have of this date 16 years ago was from the afternoon hours, probably about 4 p.m., when I was passing through the Loop on my way home from work.
Collectable? Or fish wrap?

I was with United Press International at the time, and like many other downtown businesses on that day, we closed up shop and evacuated the downtown area.

THAT DIDN’T MEAN we got the day off. We wound up reconvening at an editor’s home and spent our workday there – mostly writing react to what had occurred in Manhattan and suburban D.C. that day what with jets being hijacked and crashed into the World Trade Center and Pentagon as a vicious political statement.

Not that I was the only reporter-type person who kept working at a time of crisis.

For when I returned to the Loop to shift over to another commuter train that would actually get me back home, I found a newsboy (actually, a little older than a boy) peddling newspapers at Wabash and Randolph streets.

Specifically, he had the “Extra” editions that both the Chicago Tribune and Chicago Sun-Times had put together during the past few hours to try to provide a same-day report of what had happened “out East.”

I REMEMBER THAT guy was relieved to see me, and also excited that I promptly bought copies of both papers – which I wound up reading on my commuter train ride the rest of the way home.

What makes that so unusual is that city officials had given the evacuation order of downtown Chicago, just in case there was some sort of other incident that was meant to target the Sears Tower or some other structure in the Second City.

Yes, the paranoia of that day was intense enough that nobody knew for sure what could happen.

It also means that by late afternoon, the streets of Chicago were deserted in a way I have never seen them since. The people for whom those papers were published were long gone from the Loop by the time they were available for sale. Even at 4 a.m., there is still life in downtown Chicago. But not that day. There might as well have been tumbleweeds blowing through the streets of Chicago 16 years ago today.

WHICH MEANS THAT newsboy literally had stacks of papers, and nobody to sell them to. I recall that newsboy was the only other individual I encountered in the Loop in the time I transferred from one train to another (different stations).

I still have those newspapers, tucked away in a drawer along with a few other dates of some significance that I felt compelled to keep. Not that I think I have some sort of treasure to become of great value some day.

I see on e-Bay somebody with the same Tribune “Extra” edition that I have asking $30 – and nobody posting bids for it as of yet.

I wonder how many people who wound up getting out of work early that day who merely went home just waited for the next day’s paper to come out – which gave them an overview of the previous day’s happenings?


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