We only had an hour on the show today because of our special 9/11 programming on WSB, but I wanted to open up the phones for the hour and let you drive the conversation.
I started out today’s show by telling you my memories of that day, of how I had just gotten off the air at WGN-TV from my weekly Tuesday morning segment and was standing at the assignment desk, staring at the monitors when I watched one of the planes fly into the World Trade Center. Of how I yelled out to the newsroom and everyone stopped what they were doing, looked up, and then, after a momentary pause, flew into hyper-drive. Yelling, screaming, trying to get coverage. It was something I’ll never forget.
I went back on the air, talking what would become the biggest real estate and financial story of the decade – the stock market shut down. Enormous buildings worth billions of dollars fell down or were torn down. And entire swath of the city was closed for weeks. The losses were in the hundreds of billions of dollars.
And yet we survived. Here’s what some of my callers had to say today:
- Stewart got out of the army in 2001 and became a contractor for the army. He had taken the subway to meet some friends at the Pentagon that morning and was standing in the parking lot debating whether to go in and have breakfast with them. He decided to get back on the subway and go to work, which probably saved his life. His friends and where he would have been eating, were located in the area of the Pentagon that was badly damaged. He said he’ll never forget it.
- Beth said she worked at the Marriott that was a block from the World Trade Center. She was the manager on duty that day, greeting people. A man walked in and was bleeding. He said there was an explosion. Beth thought it was from the hotel because they were renovating it. She walked outside and said it was like a war zone. There were engine parts, pieces of people (limbs) and buildings and papers. She said she was in front of the World Trade Center South as it began to crumple. She said the noise was something she couldn’t describe but would never forget. “At that point, I turned and ran,” she said.
- Jatika is a native of NYC, born in Harlem. The month before 9/11, she took her Georgia-born best friend to the World Trade Center for a visit and they stayed across the street. They had lunch in the food court where so many of the waiters and servers were charmed by her friend’s accent. They chatted with them, and had a great conversation about where everyone came from (other countries). When the towers fell, Jatika’s friend called and asked, “Do you think they all got out?” She and Jatika had made a connection across race, nationality, political lines. It was just people connecting with people. Jatika told her that yes, she believed they all got out. And she will never forget that.
- Renee landed in Italy that day, 4 hours before the towers were hit. They went to Italy for nearly four weeks to visit her father-in-law’s relatives. They had no idea, until her father-in-law knocked on her hotel room and told her to turn on the TV. But Italian television didn’t cover the other crashes into the Pentagon and Pennsylvania. It was three days before they learned of the totality of the attacks. She still can’t believe it. And had no idea if, when she would finally land in the U.S., if it would still be there.
- Lori lived in CT and was working for home depot. Employees said someone flew into towers. The local firefighters stopped by and she said they were incredibly proud to be able to load them up with supplies to help with the rescue and recovery efforts. I said that the first responders were some of the bravest, most courageous people in the world.
- Katie was teaching on 9/11 at Loganville Middle School. The teacher next door had news on. “She ran in and told us to turn on our TV sets because the World Trade Center had been hit,” Lori said. A few minutes later, the principal issued an edict that everyone should turn off their televisions. But Katie sent a shout-out to all of the teachers at Loganville who didn’t follow that directive and kept the television sets on. It was, they all knew, history in the making – a historic moment that would change our lives, our country, forever. “At the time, I didn’t know how incredible that was,” she said. And yet….
I wish we had had all day to hear your stories. Please feel free to share more here. And for those who have lost family members, and friends, and those whose lives have been altered forever by what happened on 9/11/2001, I wish you peace.