Debra C. (Debbie) Meade
President and Publisher, The Roanoke Times
It was on 9/11, you know, September 11th, and I was the circulation director then. And that morning we’d been in an executive meeting – the publisher and her executive team were off-site. And we got word that a plane had flown into the World Trade Center. At first we thought – like everyone – it was an errant plane or a private plane. And then we got an idea of how terrible and huge this disaster was.
So we came back here immediately and reconvened, and we put out a special edition of The Roanoke Times. It was our first special edition of the paper since Pearl Harbor. I wasn’t here for Pearl Harbor, but I’ve heard about that one, and we still have copies of it in our archives. And it was a smaller – I seem to remember – eight-page section with what was known at the time, and it rolled off the presses.
And I actually hawked the paper that evening – all evening – on the street corner in front of our building. We decided to give the paper away – as a public service. And also because it would have been so terribly difficult to try to get money for it; we couldn’t have made change. We just wanted to distribute the news and fulfill that mission the easiest and best way we could think of under such extraordinary circumstances.
So I and members of my team – people were driving up in cars – and we were just sort of flinging the newspaper into passing vehicles. It’s a miracle we didn’t have an accident out there because the streets were clogged. And so many people just said, “Thank you. Thank you, so much for doing this for us.”
And so I had my news bag and papers and reloaded and did that all afternoon. And at the end of that day I remember thinking, “Gosh, this is one of those days when you really feel like you’ve fulfilled the mission.”