As 2009 winds down, NewsHour foreign affairs editor Michael Mosettig looks back at a defining moment of the decade.
Friday, Sept. 7, 2001 | The NewsHour gained and broadcast an exclusive television interview with Mexico’s President Vicente Fox, who was making a state visit to the White House.
That interview with the English-speaking Mexican leader was a big deal. President Bush had proclaimed that Mexico and Latin America would be the focus of U.S. policy in his administration.
And we had the interview with a key figure in this big shift of American priorities.
We left the office that night, feeling quite pleased, especially reporter Heather Dahl for all her legwork gaining the exclusive. And, of course, Jim Lehrer was pretty happy with the result of his substantial 22-minute conversation with the Mexican president amid the elegant trappings of the Blair House. We went off on our separate ways that glorious post-Labor Day summer weekend, I to a marvelous couple of days at a friend’s house on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. And I was signed up for not one but two Spanish courses at a local language school, scheduled to begin that coming Monday and Tuesday. **Monday, Sept. 10** | Over the weekend, in a flurry of phone calls with the pleasant folks at the Australian Embassy, we put together the final details for an interview with Prime Minister John Howard, who was in Washington to visit with his ally President Bush and to meet members of Congress. The prime minister and his entourage arrived at our suburban Virginia studio building around 5:30 p.m. for the live interview in the program. It was supposed to be the second segment in the program, following a domestic discussion. But, lo and behold, a guest was late arriving for that discussion, and we scooted the prime minister into the studio, almost at a dead run and with seconds to spare, for his interview with Jim Lehrer. On Sept. 10, 2001, the lead segment on the NewsHour was an interview with the prime minister of Australia. Our 20,000 loyal Australian viewers must have been pleased. And I went off to the first of my two Spanish courses. **Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2001** | In those days, my morning routine was to hit the gym before work, stop by a local sandwich shop run by a combination of Korean and Salvadoran immigrants for a morning latte and then into the office before 9:30 a.m. Driving past the Pentagon at 9 that morning, the classical music station carried a CNN radio newscast with a pretty hysterical reporter describing how a plane had hit the World Trade Center. How bizarre I thought, what kind of fool could run a small plane into a building on a perfectly clear morning? I stopped at the deli for my coffee, drove to the office and thought my domestic affairs producer counterpart was going to have a busy day dealing with the plane incident. As I walked into the lobby of our building, carrying my coffee, the guard at front desk, a hulking, slow-speaking and kindly man named Jim, who has since passed away, said to me: “They’ve hit the second building.” No interpretation was required. I knew exactly what he meant. And in a way that I had not felt since I was a young reporter on Nov. 22, 1963, I knew that my life, most certainly my working life, would be changed forever. And I did not make it to my Spanish class that night.