Remembering 9-11, part two

Yesterday I'd mentioned our University's President called in all staff and faculty to come to campus so we could support our students right after the tragedy of 9-11-2001 had become known to all. All of my students attended my classes, we tried to go on as business as usual but it was clearly not the same. But the impact of the day hadn't hit me until I was driving home, a 47+ mile plus commute. Traffic was non-existent. I drove through Downtown L.A. on the 101, listening to Sean Valentine on KIIS-FM, sharing a conversation with sister station Z-100 New York. There were maybe five (5) autos in either direction. Eerie.

We shared on Thursday what then-KNX morning anchor Tom Haule remembered about being on the air on 9-11 (read it here). Today we offer what his co-anchor Linda Nunez recalls about what happened on that Tuesday, 20 years ago:

Tuesday, September 11, 2001.  Tom Haule and I got word of some sort of plane hitting one of the World Trade Center towers.  During the top of the hour break for CBS Network news at 6am, I remember watching one of our television monitors airing what I thought was a video replay.  But the angle was wrong. Maybe it was from a different camera. No. It was another plane hitting the second tower.

I learned afterward there was some discussion among the editors in the newsroom about whether we would stick with network special coverage or go back to regular programming.  Our copy editor insisted we stay with the story.  From that point forward, we dumped our commercials and went wall-to-wall.

 "Today, we've had a national tragedy.  Two airplanes have crashed into the World Trade Center in an apparent terrorist attack on our country."

We aired a statement from President Bush, who was at an elementary school in Sarasota, Florida.  There is the famous picture of Chief of Staff Andrew Card leaning over to whisper in the president's ear.  CBS News White House Correspondent Mark Knoller described Mr. Bush's face as going ashen the moment he learned of the attack.

Early on, our coverage was a mixture of CBS Network correspondents in New York and Washington, local CBS Radio on the ground in Manhattan, and Dan Rather who was at the anchor desk in New York.  We learned the planes were headed to Los Angeles and San Francisco, so we sent our field reporters to LAX, Downtown LA, and the Federal Building in Westwood.  The LAPD and the LA County Sheriff's Department went on tactical alert.

"Simply put, we are at war."

Those were the words of CBS Pentagon Reporter Ivan Scott.  By this time, both towers had collapsed, a third plane hit the Pentagon, and another plane went down in a field in Somerset County, Pennsylvania.  It was one horrific event after another.  Ivan's words still haunt me to this day.

Tom and I made decisions on the fly about how we would handle our coverage.  Take the network, go to our local reporters, when to do a recap.  Usually during a breaking news event, the newsroom and management give us direction, but not this day.  Everyone just let us do our work.

Being on the air wasn't the hardest part.  It was the next day, seeing pictures of people holding hands jumping from the tower.  It was seeing firefighters running in, never to come out.  Learning the names of the victims who a day earlier were referred to only in a body count.  And looking up at the skies of Los Angeles and seeing no planes or helicopters, few cars on the freeways, no one on the streets.  Everything was still.  And nothing would ever be the same.

Other readers shared what they remembered about 9-11:

Public Affairs Director, OC Talk Radio (

I was working at KSBR, the Saddleback College jazz station, doing morning drive. We had (access to) AP network news and a TV in the control room. All of a sudden, I saw the plane going into the building. I said ‘holy cow,’ but then realized there wasn’t anything I could really say. We went to the AP network, I did cut-ins offering an (Orange County) angle, covering the local aspect of the story. Nonetheless I was shocked to my core.

We ran AP network news for several days. Most stations did the responsible thing, with a national story there was a “need to know” and a “need to cover this.” We’re the U.S., we’re proud of it. In the OC we cared about New York because we’re (all) part of the U.S. This story united the world. – Dawn Kamber

Wow that was a weird day. I was at home getting dressed for work and Mark & Brian started talking about the Breaking News!!!  As I’m listening to them talk about the first plane hitting the building, the second building hits as they are watching the LIVE footage!  They were truly amazing they day. They kept their heads, (yet) you could hear the emotions!  You could feel what they were feeling!  What we were all feeling the confusion, the utter shock!  That day they remained the strength that their listeners needed to try to cope.   They would bring in others to help explain, speculate and explain the situation, the aftermath, the theories, and let their listeners have a much needed place to go for information, for release, for compassion and understanding! – Elizabeth McDonnell

9-11 Memorial and Museum

I was driving to a job interview with Washington Mutual Bank when I heard on the radio (perhaps on KFI, KABC, but most likely on one of the two all-news stations of the time).  I heard about the first tower being crashed into by a plane and thought, naturally, what a horrible accident and wondered how a pilot could have been so off course.  No one on the radio (I’m sure that I punched every button on my radio to get the most up-to-date information) knew what was really going on as it was too early after the crash for anyone to know much of anything.  

I was driving from Whittier to Irvine so I had a fairly long time to listen to the radio.  As I got close to my destination I heard that another plane had crashed into the other tower.  My mind was spinning; I couldn’t comprehend what had occurred.  I had convinced myself that the first crash was just a horrible accident, but the second crash made no sense to me at the time.  How could two planes have accidents on the same day involving the Twin Towers?  It never occurred to me that terrorism was involved.  

The person conducting the interview asked me if I wanted to go forward and I said “yes” as I believed still that it was just a terrible accident.  I was envisioning slight damage to the towers (for some reason I was thinking of small, private planes being involved, not commercial airliners) and that there would be few injuries.  I was thinking, how could two little plane cause any real damage to such large buildings?  As I drove home I learned that the damage was significant and that the crashes likely had been intentional.  I vaguely recall that some presenter on the radio was speculating that there might be 30,000-40,000 deaths, fortunately that wasn’t the case, though one death was one too many.

I did in fact get the job with the bank, but during my time there I often thought back to what led up to it.  There was nothing I could do to help the situation in New York that day , but I have always felt a bit guilty that I was benefiting when others were suffering. – Michael Wick

It was early of course in LA, and I always woke up with Kevin & Bean.  Just 3 days before, my wife and I moved into our 1st house together so we had no DirecTV yet.  That morning, just lying in bed listening to Ralph Garman break in to the show to say that a small plane just flew into the World Trade Center.  Of course, I thought it was an accident like everyone.  Then he came in to announce a second plane hit the World Trade Center.  

At that point, everyone knew we were under attack.  Without television, radio was my only source of information and it was just as powerful.  I went to KFWB and KNX just listening for any information as this nightmare seemed to get worse and worse with the Pentagon getting hit and then finding out one plane was unaccounted for.   I remember I was shaving when I heard the plane crashed in Pennsylvania.  

I remember driving to work that morning and looking into the windows of different cars on the road and you can tell everyone was listening to the radio, some with tears in their eyes and head in their hands in disbelief as information was coming through their speakers.

For that drive, I wanted to hear what New York was feeling, so I turned on Howard Stern and listened to him and heard the pain in his voice as details came in.  

I eventually watched television news with our staff from the show for the rest of the day, but that morning, it was radio that told me the story of the worst day anyone could ever imagine. – David Singer

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