Ten years ago on September 11 I was an aimless college student at Auburn University, the thought of trying to make it in the music industry still at least 18 months from entering my brain. I remember one of my college roommates, whose bedroom was upstairs, called me from his private phone line right after the second plane hit. I recall thinking this was odd because a) he was normally asleep at that time of morning, and b) he only had to walk down a flight of stairs to tell me.
The whole day after that was kind of a blur. I don’t think our school canceled class, but it’s hard to imagine we got anything done under those circumstances. The sight of those buildings falling, the knowledge that thousands had perished between the planes and buildings, haunted my dreams for weeks. It was a strange time to be trying to join the professional world, as it was suddenly impossible to imagine a future that couldn’t quickly be brought to its knees by a group of horribly misguided individuals. Like most, I turned to TV and radio in those early days to try to make some tiny amount of sense out of the senseless. In this special feature, some of our CountryBreakout panelists recall their experiences on Sept. 11.
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“I was programming WDXB in Birmingham. I lived in Athens, Alabama at the time and made a 90 minute one way trip to work each day. I was en route to work that morning when I heard the news break in. We went wall to wall news and shortly afterwards began a campaign to help raise funds for those affected. For a profession I got into mainly because of the fun involved, it turns out that the most memorable events have been working through disasters like this and area tornado strikes.”
—Tex Carter, WHMA, Anniston, AL
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“In 2001, I only remember our station reporting news updates and taking calls. I had just dropped my daughters at school and returned home to watch the second plane fly into the second tower. I was in disbelief. It didn’t even register to me that it was a terrorist attack until I continued to watch the coverage. I still can’t believe that something of that magnitude was and could still be possible.”
—Billy Brown, WZZS, Zolfo Springs, FL
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“I was traveling back to the listening area from a four day vacation. Was listening AM news talk out of Houston the night before because they carry Monday Night Football. That Tuesday I had a doctor’s appointment and turned the radio on in the truck. I didn’t hear much at all except it sounded like the trailer for a new movie. It was when I walked into the doctor’s office and everyone was watching TV and crying that I knew something was wrong
—CW Simon, KMKS, Bay City, TX
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I had been hearing the news all that morning before I got into work at KBCR so I was upset and concerned about my son. I really wanted to ditch work and just go get my kid and be with him that day. I remember just thinking of my son, how lucky I was to have him and just wanting to hold him and be with him. I picked him up after school and tried to speak with him a bit about the day’s events though it was no easy task to explain such violence and terror to a 7 year old
—Debbie Duncan, KBCR, Steamboat Springs, CO
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We got a call saying ‘Did you hear someone shot a missile into the World Trade Center?’ We had a TV in the studio but they had not gone to full coverage yet so we changed to FOX and we were all just confused and watched live as the second plane hit. We were all speechless. We went on the air with the info as we got it and just did our best to inform and keep people calm. We were getting calls from government buildings saying they were locking down and/or closing for the day. We still played some music but became very aware of the titles we aired. We took calls and let people cry and express themselves. Off the air we were all calling our families to make sure they were aware of what was going on
—Dave Tyler, WTRS, Ocala, FL
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“I was asleep when I got a call from my mother. When I answered the phone, all I heard was, ‘We’re under attack!’ I asked, ‘Who?’ She said, ‘The whole country!’ So I got dressed and got ready to do whatever it was that I was going to need to do. I remember I was on vacation that week, so I just soaked in the coverage; couldn’t take my eyes off of it”
Dave Spencer, WBKR, Owensboro, KY
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“I was on the air and editing my newscast to run at 9, the tail end of the broadcast mentioned a plane had hit the World Trade Center. I edited the cast and went in to our newsroom to turn on the TV and was watching live when the second plane hit. I will never forget the feeling that washed over me as I realized that this tragic accident was actually an attack on our country. I took the station to live coverage immediately at that point and we remained on the air live until after the President spoke to the nation that night. I think the thing that I continue to recall other than the surprise was the feeling of shock and then unity that spread over our community as the events unfolded. Everyone banded together and immediately we hit the air with fund raising events and patriotic support.
Not knowing what else could be planned, several of us went home and returned to the station with our guns handy just in case! My news guy and myself remained at the station through the next day.
I have been on the air when the Challenger blew up, when Reagan was shot, while Charles and Diana were married and then when she died. I was on the air when war began in Iraq under both Bush Presidents, as well as when the Murrah building in Oklahoma City was attacked along with numerous tragic tornado and other weather events. I have been witness to or had the task of sharing major events with my audience as they unfolded throughout my career yet I will never forget 9/11 and the feeling of vulnerability of that day. I would think only Pearl Harbor would have been more difficult to bear.
Let us not forget the events of that day and be reminded as broadcasters of the awesome responsibility we bear in informing, encouraging and supporting our listeners through these times. We have a gift, we also have owe it to everyone who trusts and listens to be prepared and know what to do should something similar ever befall us again.”
—JR Runyon, KCNY, Conway, AR