I’m a radio news director in St. Catharines, Ontario, which is kind of in the middle between Toronto and Buffalo. In the Niagara Region, we think of New York state as basically, our back yard and think no more about going across “the river” than we would about crossing town. The U.S. for us, is just part of our community.
September 11th began as any other news day did for those of us in this business. In my newsroom, after the 8:30 am newscast, we were gathering for the morning news meeting. The television was on, the Today Show, I think, but the sound was turned off and we were going about our business. Shortly after 8:45 am, someone noticed the camera had fixed on one of the World Trade Center Towers. There was smoke billowing from the building, so we rushed to turn up the sound. The announcer, maybe it was Katie Couric, I can’t recall, said that a small plane had crashed into the tower and we all assumed it was an air traffic control accident. We continued our conversations, but sort of kept an eye and ear on the TV. What happened next, I’ll never forget, no matter how long I live. I was actually watching the tv when the second plane hit and we all looked at each other as if we were all in each other’s bad dream or something. No one spoke. No one could believe it. We knew then that this was no accident.
From that point on, we were galvanized into action, interrupting regular programming, trying to get information, trying to call people for interviews. At one point, right after the plane crashed into the Pentagon, I ran into the on-air booth to tell our talk show host John Michael, what had happened. His reaction was disbelief and then “get the fuck out of here…” I had to convince him that this was really happening, that America was under attack. As the minutes wore on and we tried to do our jobs while transfixed to the television, we saw images that still seemed too horrible to digest. People jumping or falling from the towers…..actually jumping from 100 stories!!!! I kept telling myself to do my job and not think about the human toll or I would go mad. All I really wanted to do was to race home and hug my little boy.
Then, as if in slow-motion, we watched in horror as the towers collapsed in on themselves, becoming coffins for the thousands we knew were still trapped inside. It was and is, too much to bear. The rest of day seems surreal to me, we were able to get out the information, with back-to-back interviews and commentary, all day. Most of us didn’t go home till late that night. When I did go home, my son was in bed. I went into his room and stroked his sleeping head and finally began to crumple under the weight of the day. I sat down with a very large drink and cried for a long, long time.
Maybe it sounds trite, but I agree with whoever said that on September 11th, “we were all Americans”. I felt like I had watched a trusted and invincible older brother get beaten up before my eyes. It is still incomprehensible to me.
On September 13th, I put an American flag up in front of my house, along with a Canadian one. They fly there still.
St. Catharines, Ontario