‘America Attacked’: Watch KSAT’s archive footage of Sept. 11, 2001

Steve Spriester and Ursula Pari reflect on covering 9/11 as KSAT anchors

SAN ANTONIOEditor’s note: Some of the footage in the video player above may be disturbing to viewers.

The often-grim news topics play out on television screens every day. Images and footage of the COVID-19 crisis, crime and war are nothing new in the modern world of 24/7 news that’s accessible with the click of a button.

But 20 years ago, four hijacked planes that collided with the core of America gripped the nation in a way that people likely never imagined. Since then, the words “never forget” have been ingrained in Americans after nearly 3,000 people were killed on Sept. 11, 2001.

KSAT is looking back at coverage on the day of 9/11 ahead of the 20th anniversary of the attacks. View some of that archive footage in the video player above. Some scenes may be disturbing to viewers.

On that day, KSAT used the words “America Attacked” to capture the horrors in New York City, the Pentagon, and the field near Shanksville, Pennsylvania.

“It is the unthinkable — America under attack,” KSAT anchor Steve Spriester said during a newscast, giving San Antonians an update on President George W. Bush’s whereabouts in the aftermath of the attacks.

Looking back, Spriester said there are certain parts of 9/11 that he blocked from his memory.

“I honestly don’t remember anchoring that day. I remember just sitting in shock in the newsroom and our main conference room, where we had a big television, and just being shocked and saddened by what I was watching,” he said.

Forgetting about sitting at the anchor desk for a major news event had never happened before, or since, he said.

He does remember checking in on local military bases — the fabric of Military City U.S.A. — and watching ABC News.

“It’s hard not to feel the emotions of the day, but our job is to not let that keep us from giving out the information people need. No day compares to Sept. 11th,” he said.

“I remember my baby daughter in a baby swing and thinking innocence and evil were right there in front of me: my innocent daughter with the evil of what was playing out in New York on the television.”

Longtime anchor Ursula Pari also sat on the anchor desk as the story developed.

“I remember waking up that morning with my new baby, Jackson, and watching the morning news shows like it was any other day. Then I saw the confused anchors trying to figure out what was happening at the Trade Center, then watched live as another plane hit the towers,” she said.

She knew she had to get to work, she said, even though it meant leaving her baby in a new world of unknown. This was the Pearl Harbor of the modern-day, she added.

“I called the babysitter and said I don’t know when we’ll be back… we could be at war in which case we may be stuck there for a few days. I even warned her that there could be more attacks while she was at her house so she should pack a bag and plan to stay,” she said. “It was surreal knowing I was leaving my baby in order to bring important information to our viewers.”

Pari called Sept. 11 an “incredibly long,” tense and scary day of reassuring people in San Antonio that they would be OK.

“However, finding out thousands of people were hurt and killed that morning is something that changes you,” she said. “To this day I can’t look at a plane in the sky without wondering is it happening again, and saying a prayer.”

History in a Headline

While KSAT was providing up-to-the-minute coverage on-air, San Antonio Express-News reporters were furiously gathering information and stories for the next morning’s edition. Here’s what the front page of the Express-News looked like on Sept. 12, 2001, and Sept. 13, 2001.

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About the Author:

Rebecca Salinas joined KSAT in the fall of 2019. Her skills include content management, engagement and reporting.