10 years…where did the time fly?
My wife and I were on our way to work that morning. I worked at WSTM-TV in Syracuse as a News Video Editor, Kelly worked as an Administrative Secretary for a non-profit organization. We were driving on the Onondaga Lake Parkway and traffic was pretty clear sailing into Syracuse. The sky was beautiful, warm, without a cloud in sight. As with every morning, we were listening to the Howard Stern show on 95X.
At about 8:46am, one of his assistants, Gary D’ellbate, otherwise known as “Baba Booey”, screamed in the studio that a plane had hit one of the towers of the World Trade Center. We didn’t believe it at first, as Howard Stern was notorious for doing outlandish behavior on the air.
We switched the station to the news radio station, WSYR to see if it was in fact, true. To our astonishment, news of the plane accident was confirmed, but we didn’t know the seriousness of the event. Kelly dropped me off at my work, as we only had one car at the time. I told her this might be a big story and that she will probably need to take the car after work, as it will probably be a long night for me.
I ran into the newsroom to see the stunned look on every person’s face in the room. My heart dropped as I saw on each of the television screens, the deep hole in the north tower where American Airlines flight #11 hit. Smoke and fire consumed the building. While everyone thought it was an accident, I could only remember 1993, when a car bomb destroyed the inside of a parking garage in the World Trade Center.
I immediately ran down the hall to the video editing suite, where, to my relief, someone was rolling video tape on the scene. I look for every available two hour video I could find because I new this was going to be an on-going event. In my haste, a producer ran into the editing area and told me, “Did you get it?” I told her, “What are you talking about? We got the video of the tower being hit.” She then told me, “Another plane just hit the second tower.”
I immediately stopped the tape and rewound it.
In our amazement and sheer disbelief, we witnessed the fireball upon impact, which shot out of the building like a napalm strike on a Vietnamese village. The second plane, United Airlines flight 175, hit the south tower. It was seventeen minutes after the first plane hit.
My theory was confirmed…it was a terrorist act.
My world became a constant monitoring of events and looking for video that just came off the Associated Press, CNN and NBC news wires. It became mass chaos in the newsroom, without much guidance. It was evident that our capabilities in providing news to the general public was hampered because of the lack of quality producers.
Most of them, who were hired right out of college, were inexperienced and had to be coached constantly by our newly minted News Director, who was only on the job for three weeks, on what we were going to cover locally. Thankfully, our anchors were very experienced and they held it together during the crisis.
But as much as I thought the TV station was poorly managed, thanks to our greedy “fat bastard” of a General Manager, I knew I had to make sure the public know what was going on. I continued to monitor the events. At 9:37am, the Pentagon was hit by American Airlines flight 77. At 9:59am, the South tower collapsed. Four minutes later, at 10:03am, United Airlines flight 93 crashed in Shanksville, Pennsylvania. About a half hour later, the North Tower collapsed. I stayed at work that Tuesday well after 11pm that evening, a full 16 hours. That week, I put in 12 hour shifts. I was emotionally and physically drained, as was everyone else in the newsroom, the country and the world.
I took it very personal about the World Trade Center being destroyed. I was born in the shadow of the Twin Towers in Brooklyn. I remember the buildings being built as a kid. When I was 13 years old, my family took my brothers and I on a trip to the observation deck on the South Tower. The elevator ride we took was like a rocket ship. Once we got up to the 110th floor, we were awestruck by the view from above. We could see for miles and miles out into the vast New York, New Jersey area. It was an amazing site, one I won’t soon forget.
Now they were gone…and our world changed forever.