9/11 Pulitzer Prize-Winning Journalist Visits Anchorage
Tina Kelley interviewed surviving family members and friends of 9/11 victims
ANCHORAGE - It was a horror story -- a story that won her a Pulitzer Prize.
One of the New York Times writers who covered the aftermath of 9/11 was in Anchorage this week, on a book tour for her new release about Covenant House.
Tina Kelley talked with CBS 11 News about one of the most dreadful days in U.S. history, and her interactions with hundreds of survivors.
Kelley was on maternity leave when the planes hit the twin towers of the World Trade Center. But while the country was struggling to understand what was happening, the Times sent her out that afternoon to get reaction from Brooklyn residents.
"They were waiting for their people to come home from work that day, and they didn't know if their people would be coming home from work."
Kelley felt a strong contrast between her new life as a mother and the death of thousands nearby. "I remember wondering if my seven-month old would make it to childhood."
The turmoil in the Big Apple became her assignment.
"I worked the first week after the disaster and went, you know, chasing bomb threats and going to some of the night vigils that were happening in the communities where they'd lost a lot of people, and watching people put up missing posters for their loved ones."
Months later, when she returned to work full-time, she became part of the team producing the series called “Portraits of Grief,” interviewing surviving family members and friends.
"I hate coming up to someone and saying can I talk to you about your grief. The only thing that works for me is to say can you tell us about this person so we can understand what was lost here. Because so often it just feels exploitative if you ask another way -- like 'how do you feel now that something horrible happened to you?'"
How did she get through it?
"It was very emotionally heavy work. But I was working the night shift and when I’d come home and wake up in the morning, I was a full-time, stay-at-home mom with my daughter. So I got to have a very happy daytime."
In 2002, the “Portraits of Grief” series won the Pulitzer Prize for public service. "But you really couldn't jump up and down about it, you know."
It was the biggest story of Kelley’s career. And she wants it to stay that way.
She says they're planning a follow-up book about the organization's programs in Latin America.