I’m somewhat heartened today, that in the midst of Hurricane Irma, DC Dysfunction, and football analysis, that I’m seeing a number of posts remembering September 11, 2001.
I was a senior at Syracuse University, and that day was, to our generation, what the JFK assassination was to our parents. There are so many details that I won’t forget. My roommate’s mom calling the apartment waking us up to tell us to turn on the TV. Reaching over to turn on my clock radio – it was set to our student-run Top 40 Radio Station, Z89. But when I turned it on, I heard ABC News. Bringing my boombox to the station so we could record what we did that day, for perpetuity. (Ironically, and sadly, I CANT FIND the tape!) It was the only day in my two decades in radio that I used my real name on the air. “JAG” or “Jon Gray” didn’t seem appropriate at the time.
Also, keep in mind where we were, technologically, in those days. The idea of getting news from the Internet was still in it’s infancy. Also, our web was down at the station, so I was frantically running across the street to the Kimmel computer cluster to try and get information. Crazily enough, in the chaos of the day, we weren’t able to verify some of it – just had to be sure we attributed it to sources. How many planes? How many buildings? Were more attacks coming? Most importantly, we had to get information to the students. Syracuse University, despite being 5 hours from NYC, was densely populated with students from New York, Connecticut, and New Jersey, many of whom had parents that worked in the World Trade Center. Cell phones weren’t very prevalant in 2001 (I was one of a few friends in our circle who had one). So the school converted its fundraising phone center into a resource for students to call home. I can’t imagine the agony they felt.
I wasn’t in a fraternity in college, but my “family” was my radio station co-workers. Some are my very best friends to this day. So when I signed off at 7pm, and handed it off to the next DJ on a very carefully selected, limited music playlist, we all gathered at “The Batcave” – the nickname we gave to the off campus house that several radio station people called home. We sat down and watched the news. They showed people jumping from the towers – choosing death by impact over being burned alive. I remember my friend Beth shrieking in horror at the sight. One of us had a close friend in NYC, and finally heard that they were OK.
Finally, I went home to our apartment. Bill and I just watched the TV. And we kept watching – for days and weeks. We were both history minors, and we knew that despite the tragedy, we were literally living history in real time. We were fascinated.
That semester, I was taking a history class taught by Professor Bennett, “American History 1963-Present.” The syllabus started with JFK’s assassination, and culmintated (I believe) with the historic 2000 Presidential Election. Some tweaks were made, and the final class was about September 11th, an event we had lived in real time as the semester started. That part was surreal. The class, essentially, became “American History: JFK’s death to 9/11.” Very creepy symmetry.
I feel it’s important to reflect back on 9/11 every year. Yes, it’s become cliche, but no, we should never forget. We should thank our military and first responders. We should explain to kids that couldn’t understand or weren’t alive in 2001. Keep in mind, those born at that time are now in their final couple years of high school.
What’s most important is to remember how this country came together at that time. It wasn’t democrat or republican, black or white, gay or straight. It was American. People helped each other – just like they are doing now in Houston and Florida. We should all keep that in mind.
I’m glad I had the foresight that night to jot down some thought. I have a Microsoft Word document dated 1:50am, September 12, 2001. I thought it would be good to get some thoughts down on paper to look back at it later. My ramblings are followed by a sampling of “AOL Instant Messenger Away Messages” from classmates and friends.
September 11, 2001
September 12, 2001
I almost don’t know where to begin. I sit here at the computer, in the bedroom of my South Campus apartment, 20 years old, a senior at Syracuse University. I’m reading everyone’s away messages on AOL Instant Messenger. Some are quoting scripture. Some ask for prayers, some thanking God that their families are OK, sending well wishes out to others. Some passing on word that we should wear red, white, and blue tomorrow in defiance of this attack on our country.
This is by far the worst, most tragic event any of us have seen in our lives, and hopefully, the worst we ever will see. One person – I think a Senator – perhaps someone from the military – called this a “second Pearl Harbor.” I think this must be what it was like for our parents’ generation when John F. Kennedy was assassinated. Total shock – unreal. Quite a day I had.
I had an astronomy test at 1pm…my roommate’s mom called at 10, waking me up with the news. I gave Bill a ride to class, albeit a few minutes late. I watched the news until about noon….then drove up to campus, dropping my stereo off at Z89, so they could tape their coverage. I took the astronomy test and bombed it (partly due to distraction, partly to poor preparation). I went back to Z89 to help with coverage. We simulcast the ABC News coverage…then broke in at the top of each hour. As the scheduled drive jock on from 3-7pm, I was the one breaking in, securing myself a place in WJPZ history – which (though I feel slightly guilty about this) I take pride in – working with Dave Peterson and Brett Bosse, as well as several others behind the scenes.
The news is still on – 1:30am now – still showing images, Dan Rather still on. They keep showing the planes crashing into the World Trade Center towers in New York…landmarks which existed 17 hours ago, but are no more.
I’m getting tired, I think I should go to bed. I may write more tomorrow….I don’t know. I may summarize the events, but I did that all afternoon. I am just going to go to bed. Here are some away messages.
Reaper 19th: For all those at SU, take this time to talk to friends or love ones and tell them that you love them or show them that you care. Tragedies like this remind us how precious life is and that we should never take those we care about for granted. Goodnight and let us pray for those who have passed on.
BillSU44: watching the news coverage
Rappy88: still watching the news
ChrisH9339: I normally don’t put away messages up when I sleep, but I know a lot of people check away messages, so if you’re reading this, remember: terrorists try to alter our way of life by leaving us eternally scared. Let us pray and grieve for the victims, find who’s responsible and punish them, and then continue on as best we can…God bless America and good night to all.
Sjdumont: Snuggling in bed with my teddy bears. I really want my mommy now! God bless and sweet dreams, all. Good night.
Klborange5:Footage has now appeared on CNN of the first plane crashing. I can’t even think of words to describe it. I hope everyone’s family and friends are safe and thank god for the safety of mine. Off to bed in the hopes that when I wake up they have found more information about the bastards that did this…
MattDel66: God bless America, my home sweet home… :'( DOWNLOAD OF THE DAY: Kansas, Dust in the Wind
Jrsyboy17: “Crawling in my skin, these wounds they will not heal, fear is how I fall, confusing what is real.” Here’s hoping our collective wounds will eventually heal
Hills82: i dont have anything inspirational to say right now…im around
BiffBeth: Pass this message to as many people as you can: Make tomorrow a day of national pride. Support your country and those who died today by wearing red, white and blue. I hope you and your loved ones are well…
Slvrstr5: *crawling in my skin/these wounds they will not heal/fear is how i fall/ confusing what is real…my walls are closing in…im convinced thats just too much pressure to take/ive felt this way before…so insecure…*
BlairwitchOct94: I am trying to sleep after a very trying day. I only hope that tomarrow wil lbe better.
MarkSU99: In the city of God (NYC……. big buildings….. looks like god built it) there will be a great thunder (the crash), Two Brothers (The 2 towers) torn apart by Chaos, while the fortress endures (4th plane doesn’t make it to the white house and white house stands), the great leader will succumb (we will give in)” “The third war will beginwhen the big city is burning”- Nostradamus 1654
LindsayLu8: Sweet Dreams* Hopefully tomarrow will be a better day:'(
AngelinaJolie79: RRRRRRAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!!!!!!!!!!!!!! (nough said!)
SUPrincess7682: sleeping today away:-\
I think those sum everything up. As tragic as this is, I want to be able to freeze this exact moment – I know it is one I will never, ever forget. More information comes in – some relating to how the terrorists got the plane (with many small, legal knives) – more speculation as to if Usama Bin Laden is responsible. Bill’s right on two counts. This is one of those things you’ll always remember where you were when it happened. Also now, so very tired – but not wanting to go to bed.
Class tomorrow should be interesting….I think I’ll wear red, white, and blue.