I woke up on September 11, 2001, at my mother's home in Hull, Massachusetts. It was a busy morning. I was in a rush to catch a ferry to Logan Airport where an American Airlines flight to Richmond awaited. One thing that struck me as the ferry moved across the waters of Boston Harbor was just how beautiful the day was. Bright blue sky and no clouds. Picture perfect indeed.
I reached Terminal B at Logan before 8 a.m.
I remember distinctly looking at a clock on the wall. It read 8:10 a.m.
My American Airlines flight took off from Logan at 8:40 a.m.
The flight was uneventful.
Unbeknownst to us, the terror attacks were unfolding as we passed over New York City.
We touched down in Richmond at about 10 a.m.
I do remember it was a hard landing. The pilot taxied the plane to the terminal very quickly. There was no warm greeting by the flight attendant. They wanted us off the plane as fast as possible.
Mobile phones were fairly new. Not everyone owned one.
As we waited to exit the plane a fellow passenger near me received a call.
I remember him saying to the caller, "Yeah. We're safe. We made it." I assume the caller informed him of the attacks.
As I made my way through Richmond International Airport I noticed a group of people staring up at a television. When I reached the television I saw the World Trade Center burning. It was hard to process.
After a minute or two of watching the carnage unfold on TV, I kicked into reporter mode. I called WTVR's newsroom to find out if there was a plan. Rob Cardwell picked up the phone. He yelled across the room to everyone, "I've got McQuade on the phone. He made it safely." He said something like it was so good to hear my voice.
Moments later our Assistant News Director, Eileen Smith, got on the phone. She urged me to call my mother who was frantic not knowing if I was OK or if my plane was hijacked.
I made the call to my mother, Anne. I've never heard her cry like this. She was sobbing on the phone. There was a sense of relief, fear, and sadness in her trembling voice.
After hanging up with my mother I awaited the arrival of my colleague Stan Heist who was a photographer and live truck operator.
My job was to recount what I saw and heard during my flight and update viewers on the latest happenings at RIC.
And so began a long day and evening of live shots and reports on the day the world stood still. I remember being interrupted on air by the then WTVR anchors Stephanie Rochon and Ray Collins. They had to cut to the Defense Secretary who was holding a live press conference.
The following days are a blur. I do remember sitting on my couch after an exhausting week of stories and non-stop coverage. I wept.
A few weeks after 9/11 Richmond International Airport reopened I climbed on a U.S. Air jet with members of the Richmond press corps and Virginia Governor Jim Gilmore.
It was a symbolic flight to show that we were returning to a semblance of normalcy despite the attacks.
Looking back on September 11, 2001, to think the terrorists who hijacked American Airlines Flight 11 were in the same terminal as me at Logan Airport that morning is chilling. I still have my boarding pass from that fateful day.
Join us this week as we Remember 9/11: 20 Years Later with unique reports and recollections from our award-winning storytellers on social media, WTVR.com, and television.