9/11 thoughts: Reporter Matt Ward

Sept. 11, 2001: Through former Shorthorn reporter Matt Ward’s eyes:

Here are some brief thoughts from me…
Jason Hoskins was editor. I remember getting a call from my girlfriend saying to turn on the TV that morning. Of course, it was horrific. I saw, along with millions of other people, the second plane crash into the World Trade Center on live TV. I called Jason and said I’d come in and help the coverage. It was my last semester at the paper — my fifth or sixth, so I was among the more experienced reporters.
What I remember most are the follow-ups. My biggest contribution was getting together with one or two other reporters and writing about the impact of 9/11 on foreign exchange students. I remember it came out pretty quick that the hijackers had overstayed student visas. It was pretty lax back then, so the feds were automatically cracking down as soon as the events unfolded. We broke that story angle first and it was picked up by that college news wire.
I believe we also broke a story about the FBI coming to campus seeking information on a few students.
That was an interesting story and very secretive in nature because of the fear that the attacks could go on — remember the anthrax thing started right after…
I also had a personal connection to a police guard on campus named Abdul Azim. I had written some great stories about his struggle to get his family out of the Northwest Frontier Province of Pakistan — a really lawless area that actually is still a hotspot for Taliban activity. He had his U.S. citizenship and had struggled for a decade, spending thousands of dollars, to get his wife and daughters out of Pakistan. It seemed like he was very close … then Sept. 11 happened, and we both believed he might not ever get them out. I don’t remember the timing, but it was not long after that he did succeed…I wanna say it was only a few months after 9/11. It was an amazing story…I believe he still works on campus. I have often wondered if our coverage of his plight didn’t jiggle some handles of power…
Lastly, you could share this with your students…Arlington has a real connection to Al Qaeda and the events leading up to 9/11. In the 1990s, two US embassies in Africa were destroyed. Hundreds were killed and injured. It was Al Qaeda’s first real big gotcha attack, besides Khobar Towers. Well, Osama bin Laden hid out in the Sudan for many years before fleeing to Afghanistan. He had planes, drivers, cover houses, everything…one of his limo drivers was a man named Wadi el Hajj (cqd?). Ol Wadi got in a ringer after the embassy bombings…his name kept coming up and he was eventually traced to a tire shop in none other than Arlington, Texas.
The FBI arrested the man (a police report should still be in the APD’s files somewhere) and Wadi was sent up to federal prison for conspiracy to commit terrorism.
Knowing this added a surreal blanket of fear, excitement and intrigue, at least to me, after 9/11 occurred. The argument can be made, that with Osama’s limo driver living here in Arlington, there may have been other connections with North Texas’ Muslim community.
Anyway, those are my tattered memories.
Hope they help and I wish the staff well. They do an important job.
Matt Ward


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