A review of the news that made The Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s front pages through the decades.

Coronavirus concerns are canceling all types of events this year, including public remembrances of nation-changing history. Stockbridge’s four-hour commemoration marking the 19th year since the 9/11 attacks has been canceled, a city spokesperson said Thursday.

In 2001, the AJC printed two papers: a morning edition, the Constitution, and an afternoon paper, the Journal. That fateful morning, before two planes struck the World Trade Center in New York City, morning newspapers were already published and waiting in driveways and news racks across the country, faithfully reporting on what seemed like just another Tuesday.

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The Constitution’s early editions sought answers for the following: Would Michael Jordan return to the NBA for a third stint? How much higher would airfares climb? And what to do with all those annoying “free trial” America Online CDs we were getting?

The afternoon paper’s crew, which began arriving before dawn, soon realized the date was going to be “another that will live in infamy,” as the Journal’s Frank Hyland wrote on the front page of the paper’s first extra edition.

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The original Sept. 11, 2001, Journal front page vs. the first replate edition detailing early reports of the World Trade Center attacks. AJC PRINT ARCHIVES

Credit: AJC Print Archives

Credit: AJC Print Archives

The Journal’s first edition was usually put together by 8 a.m. Those headlines — a hospital donation linked to a McDonald’s contest scheme, a poorly-worded Mitsubishi ad campaign, Jordan’s comeback, airfare hikes — were quickly replaced when the first plane, American Airlines Flight 11 slammed into the World Trade Center’s North Tower at 8:46 a.m.

Journal editors hastily put out a replate edition, changing the top of the page to initial reports on the World Trade Center attacks, while keeping most of the original stories. The replate preceded the first of the day’s three extras, each devoted to the news that shocked the world.

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Changing a planned newspaper front page on a regular news day is no mean feat. Doing so numerous times in a single day due to a major news event of the scope seen on 9/11 requires extra skill and swift judgment.

Rick Crotts, the AJC’s senior editor for print today, says “Ripping up the front page is always difficult, especially when we are on deadline. Sept. 11 was early in the morning, so we had to react quickly to get an extra edition of the newspaper to our readers. If we have a big news event today, it’s a little easier because we can do an extra edition of the newspaper for our ePaper.”

The Sept. 11, 2001, Constitution front as compared to the next morning's A1 page, which was given over to the aftermath of the attacks. AJC PRINT ARCHIVES

The Sept. 12 papers featured news for a changed world. Terrorism, national security, rebuilding the ruins at the World Trade Center site and the Pentagon became familiar items. Ground Zero became a real place, not just a slang term. Flight 93 refers to one specific plane and the passengers who fought hijackers. The offhand phrase “Let’s roll” took on heroic meaning.

In the nearly two decades since, many of the questions about the Sept. 11 attacks have been answered. And we learned, eventually, that Michael Jordan had another NBA comeback in him, that fare hikes were the least of airlines' and passengers' worries, that America Online, so dominant in the ’90s, morphed into just another Internet website and streaming music services spelled the end of the CD era.


In this series, we scour the AJC archives for the most interesting news from days gone by, show you the original front page and update the story.

If you have a story you’d like researched and featured in AJC Deja News, send an email with as much information as you know. Email: malbright@ajc.com. Use the subject line “AJC Deja News.”