By Jenna Jones and Kaeden Boyd, Viking Fusion Videographers and Grace Snell, Viking Fusion News Producer
MOUNT BERRY, Ga.–One September morning, “Good Morning America” played on television in the background as Kevin Kleine, student publications advisor at Berry College, prepared for work. The program reported one of the World Trade Center towers was on fire, but no one knew the cause. Then, Kleine watched live as a jet crashed into the other tower.
It was Tuesday, September 11, 2001, and the United States of America was under attack.
Kleine knew what he had to do. He rushed into work, and his journalism instincts kicked in. He contacted key members of his student newspaper staff: Courtney Craig (Dye), Chris Marr, and Julie Labbe (Brown). Cell phones weren’t widely available at the time, so he called the hall phones in their dormitories.
Berry’s student newspaper, the Campus Carrier, published on Thursdays, so the students had two days to pull their stories together. The information and footage gathered by Campus Carrier staff in the following days became the primary record of 9/11 on Berry’s campus. Twenty years later, alumni reflecting on that day say they think of the Carrier’s coverage when they remember 9/11.
For Kleine, and others, the cover photo taken by the Carrier’s photo editor Julie Labbe is what stands out most.
“More than anything else–it’s seared in my mind–is the front page picture that Julie Brown took that was in the Carrier” Kleine said.
The photo shows five students gathered around a television set in the Krannert Center’s lobby, watching the tragedy unfold.
Katherine Birkbeck (Oliver) was one of the students featured. She had been waiting for her British Literature class to start when her professor arrived late. He told them a plane had hit one of the World Trade Center towers and class was canceled. Birkbeck made her way to the Krannert Center where she and other students witnessed the strike against the second tower.
Birkbeck sat and watched as clips of the towers burning played continuously throughout the day.
Despite this photo’s impact, Labbe said nothing particularly special went into it: She simply captured the moment.
“If I had taken the same picture five minutes later, it could very well be that each student in that picture had a different expression,” Labbe said.
However, for many Berry alumni who viewed Labbe’s work, this image stands out among their memories.
Kleine often reposts the image on Facebook to mark the anniversary of 9/11. Over the years, many Berry alumni commented to share how meaningful it was to them, too.
“I’ve had that photo of Katherine and Amy etched into my mind for the last 18 years,” commented alumna Ashley Belvin in September 2019. “When I think of 9/11 that is one of the images that instantly comes to mind.”
“I rushed up there when I heard the news and saw them standing like that right before Julie took it,” another alumna, Brooke Jones Harnage added. “Can’t shake that day.”
The students were under tremendous pressure and strain. Chris Marr, the Carrier’s news editor at the time, said the magnitude of the tragedy added another level of difficulty to his work.
“When the attack happened that Tuesday morning, I think everybody was so, just in shock… You’re processing your own emotions and your own personal response to it at the same time as trying to figure out how you can write about this,” Marr said.
It really proved what great student journalism is, working under deadline pressure in a breaking news environment when its emotional not just for the subjects but for the reporters, the photographers, the editors.Kevin Kleine, student publications advisor
Although people had different reactions to how September 11 should be memorialized, Labbe said there was still a sense of community on campus.
“One thing you don’t really know about the day–unless you were there–is you never wanted to be around people so much in your life,” Labbe said.
Although two decades have passed since that day on Berry’s campus, its effects are still felt by those who lived it.
“I remember this like it was yesterday. Vividly,” commented Amy Turner Cathy, another of the students featured in Labbe’s photo.
Looking back, Kleine is proud of the work his students did. He believes they demonstrated the principles student journalism is all about.
“They went above and beyond what a normal week would ever be like for the Campus Carrier,” Kleine said. “I never forget that.”
“I don’t even forget the names of those students, and that’s 20 years ago.”