Malcomb column: The day it all changed

Reporter Jamey Malcomb reflects on the Sept. 11 attacks and how he found a new beginning in the trauma of that day.

In my memory, I’m in the office kitchen on the seventh floor of a building about three blocks from the White House.

I was pouring my coffee thinking about how much I hated my job, while a woman sat at the table eating cereal.

“Look at that,” she said as she watched the TV hanging from the ceiling. “Looks like a plane flew into the World Trade Center.”

I remember thinking that was weird, but I didn’t think too much about it. I remembered something about a plane hitting the World Trade Center when I was a kid.

It wasn’t long before I heard what I assume was a similar refrain across the country.


Someone stuck their head out of the kitchen and said, “It happened again!”

I remember trying to pull up MSN — the homepage on my computer at the time — and it had crashed.

I remember the rumors in those crazy minutes on Sept. 11, 2001, between the third plane crashing into the Pentagon and watching the Twin Towers collapse about two hours later.

One rumor said there was an explosion on H Street, just a few blocks from where I worked.

That never happened, nor the bomb that was allegedly detonated in the underground Metro system.

Mostly, though, I remember how unhappy I was working there. I was just a couple years out of college, and I hadn’t really focused on what I wanted to do with my life.

I remember watching with horror as the Twin Towers burned and there was a fourth plane headed toward Washington — we hadn’t heard it had crashed yet.

“I don’t want to die here. I don’t want to die with these people,” I thought to myself. “I hate this job — I can’t do this any more.”


I don’t want to name the organization I was working for. I don’t agree with their goals any more, but they weren’t the reason I was unhappy. I hadn’t done the work I needed to do in college and it had resulted in a bad situation for me.

I caught a ride home with a friend who also worked in town. We had to drive by the Pentagon to get to my place, and I remember watching the smoke billowing out of what until then I thought was the most impregnable building in the world.

The terrorist attacks on Sept. 11 changed us all. It changed the way we look at people around the world, it changed the way we saw ourselves.

But the change for me was more personal. I wanted to write. I wanted to work for a newspaper. I remember kicking myself on the way home from my office that day because I hadn’t explored the possibility in college.

A year later, I was taking classes and learning how to write sports. Two years later, I was freelancing for a paper in Loudoun County, Virginia.

I emerged from the trauma of Sept. 11 with the goal of becoming a full time sports writer. I lost sight of that goal a few times — there’s a reason I have a master’s degree in education — but it never died.

Twelve years after those attacks, I finally got a full-time job with a newspaper and two years after that, I became a reporter in Two Harbors.

I’m not quite a full-time sports writer yet, but I think about what I’ve learned and the ways I’ve grown since that day. I was an unhappy kid who was floundering at a dead end job (for me).


Today, I can unpack Carlton County’s Jail project, talk school board politics and break down last week’s Lumberjack football game with Tom Lenarz and it’s all just part of the job.

There is no doubt Sept. 11, 2001, was a terrible day. Nearly 3,000 people died and many more had their world’s upended.

For me and many others, I think, it was a wake up call, and more importantly, it’s when I started to become the person I am today.

Jamey Malcomb has a been high school sports reporter for the Duluth News Tribune since October 2021. He spent the previous six years covering news and sports for the Lake County News-Chronicle in Two Harbors and the Cloquet Pine Journal. He graduated from the George Washington University in 1999 with a bachelor's degree in history and literature and also holds a master's degree in secondary English education from George Mason University.
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