On Tuesday morning September 11, 2001 I was looking forward to my birthday coming up. I was looking forward to my wife Gloria returning from a couple of weeks on the west coast for business.
I did my usual drive to WBZ that day in the early morning. And I distinctly remember passing the Dunkin Donuts on Market street in Brighton, the one with the old neon sign, as I first heard about the unusual morning shaping up in New York.
The first reports on the radio were of a small plane hitting the World Trade Center, probably a recreational plane, and there was a fire. I remember naively thinking that it would probably be an interesting story as the day developed. When you’re a news producer, you think of events in terms of your news rundown, and chunks of news, elements in your rundown that make up the news of the day. I remember thinking it would probably be good for a minute-thirty or maybe even a live shot from New York.
I remember getting to WBZ as people still did not fully realize the scope of what was starting to unfold. As we would later find out, this was much more than a small plane, much more than any normal September day, much more than a minute-thirty in a rundown. The morning would unfold, and history would write the story for us.
I distinctly remember, and will never forget the face of our assignment manager Tim White, when he alerted us that at least one of the planes had originated from Boston’s Logan Airport. A collective gasp went over Soldiers Field Road where our studios were located. It takes a lot to shock a group of hardened news people who’ve pretty much seen it all at one time or another. But this was much more than any normal September day, much more than a minute-thirty in the rundown. Our newsroom would go into crisis mode.
Boston wasn’t ground zero, but it was the epicenter of the suspect search. Well known Boston landmarks and hotels were searched top to bottom as authorities honed in on just who the hijackers were, where they came from, and how they had carried out their plot. As federal agents began the suspect search, the real rescue and recovery began in New York.
Our colleagues Lisa Hughes and Joyce Kulhawik happened to have caught an early flight to New York that morning prior to any of this unfolding. They ended up being our first eyes and ears to history.
I will never forget the roll call of local names on the news which just got longer and longer, all people with Boston ties, all people who were confirmed to have died. The news would not end that day. The list of names would not end.
We worked around the clock till early in the overnight. It took hours to confirm my sister was safe in New York City. It took hours to confirm just where my wife was on the west coast. It would take days more for her to find a way back to Boston.
I remember going home that night feeling the weight of the world and a very empty feeling on top of that. I remember downing an entire bag of Doritos and leaving the TV on to hear the developments.
In the coming days, names like Mark Bavis would become engrained in my mind. Stories of surviving family members like Carie Lemack would become engrained in my mind. Stories of the many heroes would become engrained in my mind. I didn’t really celebrate my birthday that year, didn’t really want to.
Several days later, after going non-stop for hours on end, day after day after day, I remember driving down Route 9 in Boston with tears streaming down my face, as it finally began to sink in, just what I had witnessed in my newsroom over the past days.
I will always remember September 11th, and I will always remember the effort of my colleagues at WBZ who worked tirelessly to present the news, to find the facts, and to honor the victims.
This was much more than any other September day, much more than a minute-thirty in the rundown.