Disaster brings out the best of British

 On the day of Agincourt, Henry V sighed that "gentlemen in England now a-bed will think themselves accurs’d they were not here".

On the day of the terrorist attack on America, much the same dread must have motivated Daily Mirror editor Piers Morgan to stumble from his post-operative bed into Canary Wharf.

The result there, as in so many national and regional dailies, was some of the finest and most moving issues in their history. They are all rightly proud of their performance.

This has been a demonstration not only of high editorial skills but of commitment to our papers, our profession and our public.

Newsrooms suddenly filled with day-off subs and writers of all ranks and specialities. Mowers were abandoned in mid-lawn as journalists sped into the office. They just had to be where it was all happening.

It was ever thus. It is what we do. At the Kennedy assassination, the Diana tragedy.

At the disasters of Aberfan, Hillsborough, Brighton, Dunblane. Next time, God help us, it will be just the same. And the time after that.

Whatever old editors forget (or try to forget) they remember forever those nights they were privileged to master-mind such stories.

Those nights of wraprounds and serial spreadovers. Those nights when emotion is in the chair.

The moist eye selects the bull pictures. The lump in the throat dictates the great headlines. The soul stirs at the genius of the photographer in the eye of the storm and the poetry of the reporter tapping out the tale with head full of fears and heart full of tears.

At such times, journalists are taken over by the basic instincts that call us to our art and mystery. The hunger to witness events. The thirst to tell the story. We have to be in that number when the saints go marching in.

Telegraph deputy editor Sarah Sands will have thanked providence that in that number was precisely where she happened to be when the hijacked planes hit.

Imagine the torment of Daily Express editor Chris Williams, trapped on holiday in Sardinia.

His consolation was that his team more than held its own against the rivals in presentation and picture selection.

The irony of the word sensation is that it is now too devalued to describe truly sensational events. And the irony of truly sensational events is that the very worst of them bring out the very best in journalism. And in journalists.

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