I wrote the following essay below, in two parts, and I want to add a third part later this week about my re-visit to Ground Zero about a month ago. When 9/11 happened, I attempted to write some things... but nothing made sense. A year later, I finally was able to produce my thoughts on paper; mind you, this was before I dated Stephanie, this was before I worked at NBC, this was in the midst of The Deuce, so this was a long time ago. So, here we go...
Thoughts on 9/11, Part 1
Oh, the rhetoric we are thrown this week… “Tuesday morning began as such a beautiful day…” “Everything seemed so normal on Monday…” “Our lives would change forever on that day…” But here’s the crazy thing… it’s all true. Tuesday morning was a perfect day. Monday was your typical Monday. And nothing would be the same.
To spare you from what you’ll hear over and over and over today and tomorrow and in the next few days, I want to share with you a few different things. I want to give you my Tuesday morning. And then I want to share with you my Wednesday afternoon that occurred eleven months later. These are my thoughts… maybe they ramble, maybe they are boring… but I wanted to share. The stats I have come from USAToday.
I work at 1069 the Point and 973 Oldies, but last September, it was Oldies 106.9, and down the hall was Rock 97.3. Rob and Shannon premiered on Monday on the 106.9 station, stolen from up the hill at Magic 96. I had already me t both of them, and had applied—and been granted—an internship with their morning show. The first day was really hard, being there at 5:45, answering phones, telling people where Burt and Kurt went (the old morning show, now you can find them on 101.1 The Source in the afternoons), telling people about Rob & Shannon, talking on the air some, being introduced as SuperDave. Katy still calls me that… I like it.
I’d been at Cox Radio for almost three months, I was still learning my way around, still learning my place. My computer was old, the only person I knew really was Michelle Carr, then the national sales assistant, and she was even kind of intimidating, because she was tall and knew everyone and everything much more than I did. I made it through the morning show, Rob and Shannon made it through the show as well, and I came back to my desk to work on Alabama Football packages. I didn’t know Katy. I didn’t know Lori. I barely knew Tammy McLeod, Jason Demastus and knew nothing of Alex and Erin and Melanie and the Shades church up the hill.
Tuesday morning, I awoke at 5:30 am, got into the shower and headed to work. Rob & Shannon’s second day on the air, one of today’s big features was that a guy from San Francisco was going to call in about pricing records. He’s a big vintage record expert, and we were going to invite listeners to call in with their records to be priced. I found out my vintage “The King and I” soundtrack album, with the Deborah Kerr and Yul Brenner cover, was worth about 18 dollars.
At 8:50am, the phone rang, and I answered it… it was Ericka Woode, our lovely midday host, also stolen from Magic 96. She was letting me know that since 8:46am, the World Trade Center had been on fire, and that we should turn on the television in the studio. We did, and Rob began to announce over the air that the tower was on fire, and that this was something that everyone needed to watch. We played another song, as Rob, Shannon and I were talking about it, and then at 9:02, Rob was on the air again.
Shannon and I stood transfixed on the TV, watching this image of the tower burning, knowing now it was a jet that had crashed into the side. Rob began to say, “Folks, if you are not hearing the news, it appears that a plane has crashed into the side of one of the buildings…” when I noticed a small image in the background of the TV getting bigger. I pointed it out to Shannon, who said “That looks like a plane.” The image got bigger and bigger and then, on live TV, crashed into the other tower. It was surreal… the people on the news on ABC were quiet for just a few seconds, and then people were screaming, with the newscaster yelling, “Oh my God! A plane has just hit the second tower!”
Shannon and I gasped, as Rob was also quiet for just a moment. “Folks, we have just seen history… another jet has gone into the World Trade Center. You need to turn your television on right now!” Suddenly, everything was different.
The phones began to ring off the hook, the program director came running in the studio, the new director began to go ballistic, pulling every news story he had to put this on the air. Within an hour, we were directed to go straight to news and news only, as every Cox Station joined a news feed. We then began to answer phones, finding out information, answering questions to what we knew, being clueless to what we didn’t know.
At 9:59, on live TV again, I saw the South Tower began to shake and then fall.
At 10:28, I saw the next tower come down.
I was in New York City in 1998, and had visited those towers. I didn’t go to the top, but stood outside looking at their might, their majesty. They were 1,300 feet tall, straight up in the air. I was 5’7, with a straining neck, not able to see the top the closer I got to the base of the buildings. In 102 minutes, the world I knew had gone from pricing records to seeing both of the World Trade Towers collapsed. And I had no clue how to react to that. It was surreal. It wasn’t happening. This was a movie, this was a disaster movie from the 70s starring William Holden and Shelley Winters.
I answered phones for most of the morning, but then just grew weary… I got tired of people saying the same things over and over, asking the same unanswerable questions over and over… I just wanted to go be somewhere else. I tried logging on to the news sites but they were jammed. I remember ESPN.com, my favorite site, having a small picture in the corner with the announcement “North tower struck by plane”. After the South tower was hit, the entire site was devoted to the coverage.
There are several things I will never forget…
The smoke from the first tower
The plane slamming into the next tower
The shrieks of the news people when the second jet hit
And that video of the man with the towel…
I saw video of a man hanging out the window of the North Tower, the first one struck, waving a white towel. He was close to the top of the building, maybe the 90the floor or so… he had no chance. The rescue helicopters couldn’t get to the roof, the firemen couldn’t get past the 90th floor, where the jet hit. He was just waving his white towel… I saw a firefighter later talking about it. He was in tears, simply saying, “This man… wanted us to help him… but there was nothing… there was nothing we could do…”
200 people packed into the 78th floor lobby of the South Tower. They are all there, some going up, some going down, because they were told that the tower was secure. It was that floor, the 78th, that was sliced in half when American Airlines Flight 175 rammed through it. 200 people were there. 12 survived. Twelve people out of two hundred survived the left wing of a plane flying 417 miles per hour slicing through the floor they stood on, waiting for an elevator.
Another thing I can’t imagine is the desperation… being on the 100th floor, knowing you are going to die. Knowing you can’t go down. Knowing you can’t go up. So… you jump. I’ve seen video of this as well… and it’s haunting. What do you do? An estimated 212 people died by jumping. But you have to think that there were scores more that we’ll never know about that found a way to die without jumping… stabbing themselves, hitting themselves, maybe helping each other die somehow. Maybe taking an overdose of Benadryl in a co-workers office to knock you totally out.
I went home that day during lunch, sat in my room and cried. My tears flowed for a few minutes, watching the television, watching the people running around, scared, hurt, lost… watching the thick smoke, watching the fires blaze out of control. When I went back into work, I stopped at a gas station… already, gas prices were rising because of gas shortage fears. There, I ran into a college friend of mine, Donna Tucker.
Donna is my height, very pretty, very plucky and perky. She graduated a few years after me at TSU, but we knew each other instantly, and gave each other a hug. “How are you?” she asked. “Oh, I’ve seen better days. It’s been crazy today,” I replied. “Yes, I know.” We chatted for a few more minutes, about the past, about life and other things… I think God sent Donna that day to me, because for four minutes, I knew nothing about New York City, I knew nothing about Washington DC, I knew nothing about Flight 93 in Pennsylvania… I only knew of Donna and her life, her husband and how she was doing. It was a break from reality, even if ever so brief.
Rudy Giuliani made a good point… we’ll never know all the heroes. Of course, we know the firemen, the rescue workers, the police officers… but there must have been so many people who died we’ll never know of. Those people who helped usher people down the stairs just in time. Those people who gave up spots on the elevator, just in time for someone to be saved. Or maybe those people who helped comfort those others, when they all knew they were going to die. I’d like to think I’d have been that person.
Reflecting back, I’d like to think I’d have been th,e person to stand up and say, “People, Christ loves you. In a few minutes, you’ll have to stand before God, but right now, you can make a decision to live with him forever!”… but I am afraid I might have been the guy (this actually happened, according to reports) who told a lady trying to get on the elevator in front of him, “Lady, this isn’t the Titanic, woman and children aren’t first.” Who would I have been? It scares me to think about.
The rest of the afternoon was spent in silence for me. Usually, my cd player at my desk blares out whatever music I’m in the mood for, but not today. Many people in my office left early to go to their families. I called my mom and told her I loved her. I went home, and as cheesy as it sounds, I was really happy to see Michael, Tom and Shawn there. It was a comfort zone, and right then, on that day, I didn’t want to be challenged with anything. I wanted to be with people I cared about, and it was a relief to see them.
At Bible Study last night, John’s main point was to say there are no accidents. You can say this was or wasn’t the will of God, but you have to know that despite the devastation, so many people know Christ. So many people have heard the gospel. So many people are going to spend eternity with him as a result of September 11th. You can say, “Why would God sacrifice so many to save others?” but you know what, I don’t have an answer. I don’t have a clue. I do know though, that God uses everything for His glory and His purpose.