CBS Lee Cowan was among those who saw the twin towers fall reporting from ground zero

Updated: Sep. 9, 2021 at 6:30 PM CDT
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TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - CBS news correspondent Lee Cowan was among those who saw the twin towers fall, and reported from ground zero.

Lee Cowan was a year into his position as a CBS news correspondent when he witnessed the twin towers fall.

“It was certainly a daunting experience,” Lee Cowan explained. “I started to run down there and no one assigned me to do anything.”

“I just figured I better get down there. I saw the first tower fall out of the cab window. Cab driver stops he said I’m not going any further I got out and just started walking, and then finally got down to the site just in time to see the second tower fall,” Cowan added.

Once he got to the scene, Cowan says he tried to gather any information he could, “it was bewilderment. It was a sense of what’s going on we knew we were under attack of some sort. It was it was so cataclysmic that you weren’t really sure exactly where to turn next.”

Cowan says when he got closer to ground zero thee was one building still standing, it was the Millennium Hotel.

“There been obviously a big meeting taking place it was in our ballroom kind of space that we found,” he said. “You got a sense of just how fast it happened and just that instant moment of how much was left behind.”

“The scope of it was pretty hard to comprehend. I don’t think anybody knew exactly how do you do this,” Cowan emphasized. “How do you put this in perspective? How do you put this into context? What do you write? What do you say that would be enough to capture what you were seeing in front of your eyes and do it without frankly breaking down on camera because, what you were saying was with impacting all of us.”

“But, I think you sort of blocked all of that out, you had to and just went about trying to capture whatever was going on around you,” he added.

Among the many traumatic moments that day, Cowan says he also saw beautiful ones, “firefighters hugging one another, volunteers rushing around with water victims, families putting up pictures of their loved ones on any building they can find.”

20 years later, 9/11 sticks with him everywhere he goes.

“I remember the pair of shoes I was wearing were covered in that gray ash that was all over, everywhere,” he said. “I knew at that time it wasn’t just ash obviously, on my shoes. I didn’t know what to do with them. Every once in a while I’ll look at them they’re still gray, there up in my closet till this day.”

He says he was fortunate to not lose anyone he knew that day, but memories remain difficult.

“I go back-and-forth to New York all the time now and I haven’t gone to ground zero, it’s just difficult. It’s remarkable and it just shows just how does the depth of that wound that still exists even all these years later I’m not sure if it’s ever going to heal,” Cowan said.

Lee Cowan has a look at “what’s become of ground zero twenty years after the attacks” that story airs CBS “Sunday morning,” on September 12th.

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