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9/11: A Year After / WHO WE ARE NOW

Ashleigh Banfield

September 11, 2002

Ashleigh Banfield, 34, covered the World Trade Center attacks for MSNBC, narrowly escaping from the collapse of the second tower. Weeks later, she headed to Pakistan to cover the war in Afghanistan and was made anchor of her own prime-time show. It has evolved into MSNBC's weeknight "Ashleigh Banfield: On Location." Her current tour of America for the network will end in Washington, D.C., and New York today.

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"When the north tower fell, I was a block and a half away from it, far too close for comfort. I've never experienced fear and terror like that.

Since then, I haven't had the time to grieve or mourn along with the rest of America, because I left right at the most heated part of the disaster. I went right into the fire from the frying pan. I'm still trying to plug through the confusion and terror of what happened.

My personal endeavor now is to try to understand my own feelings as I return home, particularly to New York City, and that's not very easy to do because I'm still confused. I don't know why I cry suddenly and I'm overwhelmed with emotion at odd times.

It's a little tough to talk about how 9/11 affected my career, because in a sad way it had a good effect on me, something I've had to come to grips with. A journalist waits for a good story regardless of whether it kills her friends. I have two friends whose remains were never found.

I embrace what I've been doing and what's coming each day after 9/11 and I'm very thankful. But at the same time, I'm a little confused as to how it should be playing out, and obviously I think there's a fair bit of guilt that works its way into the formula, so perhaps going back to ground zero on 9/11 will help me understand the full picture.

I've seen a story that was the impossible develop, and its tentacles spread to every corner of the world. I got to see firsthand many of the effects and explore avenues of my own sensitivity and try to understand why certain things happen when they seem implausible. It changes the way I think about things I do. It doesn't change the way I live my life. I sort of live my life for my work, which is all-consuming. I haven't seen my desk since Sept. 7.

I was waiting for that big story to hit for 14 years, and it hit with a vengeance and whipped me around like a tornado. But I'm riding with it still and hoping it doesn't spit me out."

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As told to Elizabeth Jensen

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