My Memories of the Morning of September 11th, 2001
The big news in my world on September 10th, 2001 was that I was approved for a mortgage on the first home I would ever own. I was doing a morning radio show for WHCN, a classic rock station in Hartford, CT. I had been working in Hartford for about 2 1/2 years and for the previous 6 months I had been actively searching for my first house.
The house was a four-family apartment… building in one of the nicer Hartford suburbs. I would live in the large owner’s apartment and rent out the other three apartments to help with the mortgage. It was exciting to finally have a home of my own after renting for many years. The radio business was always so unpredictable and I was afraid that if I was committed to a house, it would make moving to the next radio station much more complicated. This fear had dictated my housing choices for years, so I had always rented. Now I was finally at a point in my life where I decided to take a chance and buy a place. In one of the great ironies of my life, the radio station made some changes in programming early in 2002 and I was fired four months after buying the house.
But in September of 2001, things were good with me. The radio show’s ratings were up, I was dating someone seriously for the first time in awhile (Beth, whom I married in 2003), and I had finally found a house that seemed perfect for me!
Tuesday, September 11th, 2001 was a beautiful morning. I remember several people had already commented on the perfect September weather, low humidity, bright sunshine, and clear blue skies. The WHCN morning show, called “Eddie & Teresa”, featured news, conversation and music for guys who liked their rock ”n roll hard and loud. The station’s slogan was “Classic Rock That Rocks’, I guess to distinguish it from other stations who played classic rock that didn’t really rock, or classic rock that was actually country music. The radio station, which had a long proud history in Hartford, was trying to find its audience again after years of declining listenership and someone in power had decided that playing the loudest, heaviest music from the rock era was the way to do that. For me, it meant many mornings of trying to entertain in between songs from Black Sabbath and Lynyrd Skynyrd. Personally, I disliked more of the music than I liked and I never had confidence in the format to be successful.
But I liked doing a morning show with Teresa Berry, who I had met and worked with in Hartford and later worked with for a couple of years on MIX 97.3 here in Atlantic City.
At the time the first plane hit the North World Trade Tower at 8:46am, we were doing our show, clowning around and trying to entertain our listeners. We were preparing to play a long set of music which was scheduled to begin every morning a little before 9am, as an enticement to the 9-5 work force to keep listening. I believe we may have been playing commercials when the report came on the studio’s TV monitor that a plane had had the Tower. We went on the air and talked about the initial reports of the crash and just tried to pass along the news of the event to our listeners. In the few moments after the first plane crashed, it seemed quite possible that this had been some freak accident or, at the most, an isolated instance of lunacy.
Teresa and I , along with a small crowd of curious co-workers watched those first few minutes of coverage from the scene and talked and offered opinions about what we saw. Then at 9:03am, like millions of Americans drawn to the TV by the first plane crash, we watched live, and then on countless replays, as the second jet hit the South Tower.
After the second plane, there was little doubt to me that this was an act of terrorism and I said as such on the show. The mood in our radio studio grew very dark and quiet and we watched as reports that confirmed the worst fears and we relayed what we were watching live on WHCN. For the next hour we detailed some of the most shocking and horrible images I ever seen for our listeners. Fires raged, people jumped to their deaths out of windows 80 stories or more high, a tower collapsed, news broke of the attack at the Pentagon in Washington, D.C. and another plane crash in rural Pennsylvania.
We weren’t in a position to have all the accurate information and it was hard to follow the reports on TV and conduct a radio show at the same time, but we carried on giving updates and reacting to what we saw like people everywhere were.
Many people who listened to the Eddie & Teresa Show that morning have told me about it over the years and had strong memories of the day they associated with us. Many have said it was some of the most powerful radio they had ever heard and I appreciated hearing that.
Honestly, what I remember thinking at the time was how draining it was living that experience out on the radio. By 10am, when the decision was made for us to give way to the mid-day host and return to our usual music format, I was exhausted.
Of course, just like everyone else, I spent the majority of the day and the following days watching in horror as the full weight of the tragedy unfolded. But, as we commemorate the 11th anniversary of 9/11, I still recall how everything changed in that first hour when a beautiful, sunny morning turned dark for America.