Monday, September 11, 2006

Where was I?

It was a gorgeous day for mid-September. I remember thinking the sky seems only to get that deep a shade of blue out West. It was the second full day of classes for me at the Broadcasting Institute of Maryland. When I arrived, I warned told my radio instructor that Yoko Ono had a new album out, as I had heard that morning.

I headed back downstairs and sat through my first class of the day, Promotions, which dealt with the different ways in which a radio or TV station makes a name for itself in the public. Getting your call letters in another form of media is a great thing. If you see a radio station's van at some sort of event, look for the promotions interns doing most of the legwork.

It wasn't until our sales class that started just after 9 AM that we heard a plane had crashed into a tower of the World Trade Center. Our instructor Norm Brooks put on the television set just as the second plane hit the other tower, and we knew this was no accident. I remember saying, "This was an intelligence failure," which it sadly turned out to be.

We actually tried to go on with class for about 20 minutes or so until one of the assistant instructors came down and said that the Pentagon had been hit. At that point, we put the TV back on. Both WTC towers were still burning, and then we watched each one collapse. I don't think he meant this in a disrespectful way, but one of my instructors said, "35 stations just went off the air," because they all had their antennas atop the WTC.

After the collapse, the school realized there was little point in continuing with classes that day, although for us it was a fantastic way to see how any radio or TV station can become all news, given the circumstances. I stepped outside and called my old office at the Defense Department, asking if they needed help. They said they'd put my name and phone number on a list. I never heard from them again.

So I drove back home in a daze, and as I went through the Baltimore Harbor Tunnel with no small amount of trepidation, I kept glancing at the downtown Baltimore skyline to make sure it was still there. It was on the way home and after I arrived that I first heard of United 93 crashing in Pennsylvania.

My wife came home later, and after being glued to our television sets, we decided to ride our bikes. Seemed that everyone else had the same blank expressions that we did. And something was way out of place; there were no airplanes landing at or taking off from BWI Airport. It was way too quiet.

The next day at BIM, we launched right back into our lessons, although not as though nothing had happened.

That weekend, I saw an old Looney Tunes cartoon about a skyscraper being built, to the tune of the ever-popular Second Hungarian Rhapsody by Liszt. At the end, the whole thing collapses.

It wasn't very funny, not then anyway.

We got to go up to Ground Zero in the winter of 2003, my first-ever visit to New York City. As moving as it was to be at the WTC site, even more so was seeing all the banners and other memorabilia left at St. Paul's Chapel across the street. This historic chapel served as a rest station for all those working at Ground Zero after the attack, and somehow remained unscathed by the devastation nearby.

God rest the souls of those who perished on 9/11/01, and I'm thankful my two cousins who lived in NYC weren't among them.

And may we win the war on terror that Islamic fascists declared on us that day.

ETA: What a gut-wrenching piece that Michelle Malkin put up at her site.


Puffy said...

Thanks for sharing your memories. Did you go to look at the Pentagon after it was hit? Did you know anyone involved with the Pentagon at the time?

Cygnus said...

Puffy, it was about a month later when I drove past the Pentagon for the first time; I was not working in DC then. There was a gaping hole in the northwestern side. It was chilling to see.

One of my best friends was dispatched, along with his National Guard unit, to Fort Myer to provide security for the Pentagon at the time.

I knew several people at the Pentagon, but they were all accounted for. Of course, nearly 200 others were not so fortunate.