Everybody Has A Similar Story

Danny Seo and ES crew
CBS/The Early Show
As always, CBS News Correspondent Steve Hartman used the random toss of a dart to dictate the latest destination in his journey to prove that Everybody Has a Story. This time, his assignment started on Sept. 10, 2001 in Grant County, Ky. And it ended a million years later in Everytown USA.
It was Sept. 10, and that deceivingly beautiful blue day was passing directly over Grant County, Ky.

Like the rest of America, CBS News Correspondent Steve Hartman was going about his normal routine, locating his next subject for Everybody Has A Story, blissfully ignorant of tomorrow.

The morning of Sept. 11, Kathy Trenkamp and Hartman were sitting in a restaurant, sipping coffee, talking about what her story might be.

"And when Les, our cameraman, walked up, ashen white, and told us what he'd just seen on television, I knew whatever it was she had to say, had to wait," recalls Hartman. "But it's been one month now, and I think the time has come to tell her story -- if for no other reason than that it's probably your story, too."

Kathy Trenkamp, 53, lives with her husband, Lou. And although he's retired, she put him to work every morning. Lately, his most important duty has been the maintenance of the American flag. The only time it is down, Lou says, is when the weather is inclement.

"Sometimes, I'll get lax, and she'll say, 'Flag, you know. Move,'" adds Lou.

Track Hartman's travels via the Everybody Has A Story archive.
Hers is a very simple story that shows well how far the tentacles of terrorism have reached, how even this randomly chosen bookkeeper from Kentucky has a coworker, who has a brother-in law, whose best friend was one of the firemen…just three degrees of separation. And Kathy's worried it may soon be fewer still.

Air Force reservist Mark Black was just called up.

Observes Kathy, "When it happens overseas, you think of 'that's them and not me.' But when it happens here in the U.S. and you go, 'Okay, wait a minute. What area do I live in, what are the odds and where am I going next week?'"

That's why, this week, Kathy and Lou made an appointment with a lawyer.

"All of a sudden, somehow. smacked me in the face that you need to make arrangements," Kathy explains, "because these people who went to work that morning had no clue what was going to happen."

For many people life got shorter on Sept. 11, and more worth living, too.

"People have been a little more corteous and considerate," observes Kathy. "I don't know what made it happen -- I mean, I'm sure the WTC and stuff. But there had to be something inside everybody that said, 'It's time for me to cut somebody some slack.'"

And whatever that something is, it has made Hartman's job delightfully difficult, he says, because in these more-united-than-ever states of America, everybody still has a story.

It's just often the same story.

©MMI, CBS Worldwide Inc. All Rights Reserved