WINNEMUCCA - There are events in life that you never forget, and you also never forget where you were when they happened. They represent a touchstone in our collective history.

For my parents, the day President John F. Kennedy was shot in Dallas on Nov. 22, 1963, was an era-defining event.

I can imagine my mom, at the moment she heard the news that the young, idealistic, charismatic member of American royalty was assassinated, may have gasped. She might have put her hand to her mouth and uttered something like, "Oh, my God."

Sept. 11, 2001, is another such momentous day for a different generation. It's been 12 years since the terrorist attack, with its long-lingering aftermath, but it doesn't take much pondering to recall the details.

I was working at the Lahontan Valley News-Fallon Eagle Standard newspaper on that clear September day. It also started out as a beautiful late summer day in New York City, Washington, D.C., and a field in Pennsylvania.

Anne Pershing was the editor at the time. As the nature of what had happened began to break on CNN and other media outlets that morning, she left a half-dozen messages on my answering machine telling me to get to the office.

We were not going to cover the scene of the attacks, obviously, but we could localize a story on the Navy base in Fallon and pull the latest off the Associated Press wire for a page one package.

Naval Air Station Fallon, home of the Navy's Top Gun fighter program near town, was locked down tight. During that chaotic day, officials thought the base, although a remote possibility, might be on the list of targets.

Crazy stories circulated around town. We heard one rumor that some United Parcel Service uniforms had been stolen. Could terrorists be driving brown vans around Fallon?

Even a cynical newspaper reporter learned some new lessons on 9/11. There were people in this world I didn't know and didn't know me who wanted to kill Americans to make a statement I didn't understand.

Even more than a decade later, videos on YouTube of the second airliner hitting the Twin Towers are unsettling to watch. It's incomprehensible to see how the hijacker at the controls banks the airliner sharply and lines up square with the skyscraper, ruthlessly intent on taking innocent lives. Bystanders can be heard screaming - stunned into disbelief at what they just witnessed. It was their JFK moment.

Who can forget the haunting images of "falling man" and others who jumped from 70 floors up to escape the inferno? The two towers in Manhattan crumbling to dust punctuated the tragedy. Even 12 years later, what happened that day still has the power to shock on the most visceral level.

In the years since, we've learned about jihad and radical Islam. The 9/11 hijackers were not Taliban militants riding around on motorcycles on dusty roads in Afghanistan toting AK-47s. They were educated, alienated, disenfranchised immigrants living in major European cities.

Somewhere along the line they became self-radicalized, a term I heard applied to the Boston Marathon bomber as well. Those with such knowledge said that Al-Qaida didn't seek out the 9/11 hijackers. They sought out Al-Qaida. Fanaticism and a hatred of the U.S. and western ideals poisoned them to their very core.

They plotted and pulled off a heinous terrorist attack, striking the World Trade Center, the symbol known the world over of American financial power and modernity. They hit the Pentagon and, due to the actions of passengers who put up a fight, slammed another airliner into a barren field instead of another city.

We put out a paper at the end of a long and draining day. The front page blared a huge two-word headline, "America Attacked." I stood outside and looked up at the stars. Not one blinking light from an airplane could be seen anywhere in the entire sky. U.S. airspace had been closed to all flights.

When the sun rose on Sept. 12, the world had changed.

Steve Lyon is editor of the Humboldt Sun. Contact him at