Tuesday, September 05, 2006

9/11: Work

I am joining the program to write my recollections and feelings on that fateful day 5 years ago. Today is my recollections of the day at work.

September 11th fell on my day off in 2001 but one of the directors was on vacation so I got to come in and direct the morning show (4am till 9am) but ended up staying a lot longer. We were an NBC affiliate and we cut into the Today Show every 25 minutes for local news and weather. In between those segments we do some production, hand out and just wait for our lunch break to start (9am). We were not paying too much attention that day until I saw a quick story about a plane that ran into the Twin Towers. Matt Lauer was saying it was some sort of small plane (Cessna or two seater) and not much was made of it. Getting ready to do our 8:56 cut in they showed the shot of the Twin Towers and the smoke coming out of it. NBC stayed with coverage but my master control operator tossed is control to do our cut in. During the segment I made the decision to go back to NBC Today instead of going to Live with Regis & Kelly, like we usually did at 9am. I got into the talents ear and told them to toss back to NYC about breaking news and a fire at the Twin Towers.

The rest is history. At 9am we went back to NBC Network and never left it for several days. About 10 minutes into the "Special Report" one of the Programming people came down and told us to run a crawl stating that we would run Live with Regis & Kelly at 10am in it's entirety. At that point it was clear to us (production) that this was something much bigger as we had been following it while everyone else was looking at commercial make goods and programming conflicts. I said to the woman not to put the crawl on as we were not going on for awhile and that Regis was already being cancelled. We then checked the satellite feed from Regis and saw both Regis and Kelly standing and telling the audience about the plane crashes and that they were leaving NYC and that they were now going to coverage on ABC News (Live's parent studio). The last thing I remember seeing was this look on Kelly's face like, Get the kids and let's get out of here. They dissolved to ABC news and that was the last we saw of them for awhile. I think that is when it hit the programming woman.

For the rest of the morning we were glued to the TV. I remember guys wanting to take a smoke break and one or two of us staying inside while the others went out for air just in case something happened. At one point it was my turn to monitor the situation when the first tower fell. I ran to the back door and yelled it's coming down and then ran back in followed by 5 guys. At first it seemed like the top part was sliding off and then the smoke cleared and it was gone. I remember saying to a co-worker, Now my son will grow up in a world with only one of the Twin Towers standing.

Side Story: While outside taking a smoke one of our employees was approached my a 'Middle Eastern" man who asked him what was happening at the airport and if the planes were still flying. My co-worker said he did not know and when the guy tried to ask another question another 'Middle Eastern' man in the car started honking the horn. The guy left and my co-worker thought nothing of it till the next day.

Then the plane hit the Pentagon and we really started to freak out. We wondered about other targets and other planes and then the United 93 crashed in Pennsylvania and that was the end, that was when we knew it was war and we held our breath waiting for more attacks in Chicago, LA, Dallas, etc.

I had already been on the phone with my wife, father and brother in Chicago. So when it was clear we were on the network and everyone was staying put, when the mid-director came in I told him it was my day off and I was going home. I jumped in my car and turned on the radio (AM) and listened to reports from New York. I remember crossing over the Erie Canal (about a mile from home) when the other tower fell. I just sat at a red light and cried. I grew up in New York City, had been to the WTC many times, my father had worked in their shadow for years and knew how many people were in there and I thought to myself that 20,000 people had just died in one minute. I got home turned on the TV and sat there until the boy got home from school at 3pm.


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