The morning of Tuesday, September 11, 2001 started like any other day. Things started at our house in Rancho Cucamonga, California around 5am each day. Brenda had been up feeding our infant daughter Allyn, while I got ready for my midday show at KBIG 104 in Los Angeles. The studios were in Glendale, and the drive each way in the morning was a brutish 2 ½ hours. As I got ready, Brenda had prepared our oldest, Daryn for school. She had just started kindergarten at a catholic school in Pasadena, which was convenient due to my commute. The rule of thumb was, be out the door by 6-6:15, be at work by 9.
A little after 5:45 in the morning, I came downstairs, flipped on the TV in the front room, and walked to the kitchen to make my lunch. I was only half listening when the news broke of a tragic accident in New York. A plane had struck one of the towers of The World Trade Center. I didn’t pay much attention at first, and didn’t really look up, thinking it was a private plane or something similar. I then turned to the television, and saw the cameras now trained on the massive firestorm sweeping the building. All I could think of, was that this was a terrible accident and that something had to go very wrong with that airplane. The last thing on my mind, was that it was no accident.
I finished making lunch, when Brenda came down with Allyn and Daryn. Daryn was wearing her school uniform, and we were getting ready to leave. I showed Brenda the TV, and we both agreed that this was a terrible accident. I walked out to my car, and walked back in just in time to see the immediate aftermath of the impact of the 2nd tower being struck by another jumbo jet. Brenda and I stared at the TV in horror. Instantly, a tragic accident had become an obvious act of war. I looked at Brenda, holding Allyn, and looked down at Daryn…and realized what was going on. Our world, was changing at that instant.
I buckled Daryn into the car, and gave my wife and infant daughter a kiss, and headed off to work and school…not sure exactly of what to do.
As I drove, I stayed with the local news radio stations for updates. There were reports of other hijackings, and the order that all planes must land immediately. Traffic seemed to move more slowly than ever. As if the entire world, was in a catatonic state. I heard the reports of planes striking The Pentagon…a rumor that one was headed for The Capitol or White House…and the chaos that was unfolding 3000 miles away. At that, I thought of the large skyscrapers in Downtown Los Angeles, which were beginning to come into view. Would one of those be next? Even my daughter…who usually chatted idly in the backseat…was unusually quiet.
Then, the unthinkable. The radio crackles with word that one of the towers had…in fact…collapsed. It didn’t seem possible. Just 7 months prior, I had flown to Rochester, New York for a job interview with Infinity Broadcasting…and remember seeing the Twin Towers in the distance as my connecting flights landed at JFK. Now…that skyline was forever changed. Then…the word of the 2nd tower collapse. I then turned on The Howard Stern Show (which I usually did not listen to in the car with my 5 year old), and heard the actual human reaction to the tragedy…my heart broke hearing the voices of people who had friends who had presumably, just lost their lives.
Sitting in traffic on the 210 Freeway, I looked out over the San Gabriel Valley. Usually, you could see planes lining up for miles headed into LAX, This morning, the skies went eerily quiet. It was surreal. Eventually, we got off the freeway and took side streets through Monrovia, Arcadia, and Pasadena to get to Daryn’s school. I was unsure if I should drop her off, but saw that many parents were leaving their kids there. It seemed logical, that this school should realistically be one of the safest places for my child that day. I walked Daryn to her class, gave her a kiss, and walked back to my car. As I walked, I passed by the school flagpole. The flag was still at full-mast, and several other parents had stopped to look up. I did the same, said a quiet prayer, and then gave the flag a salute with a tear in my eye.
I drove on into Glendale, arriving at KBIG just after 9. My show started at 10, but we were in full simulcast mode. We were airing audio from Fox News across all of our stations in the building. I went into the studio, with the instruction that we still needed to play spots. Every so often, I would do a station ID and play a spotblock. That was it. We attempted to play music again at around 1pm, but the word came from corporate to stay with the news feed. We also had a fear that if terror attacks were widespread, what would happen at our building? We were on the 8th floor, but on the ground level…was an IRS office. Fear that the IRS would be targeted began to take hold, and some people opted to leave. I stayed behind…because commercials had to play.
That afternoon, I picked up my daughter, hugged her tight, and drove home. Brenda could not sleep, and stayed up each night feeding the baby and watching news coverage. I tried hard in the passing days to maintain some sense of normalcy, continuing the routine of driving my daughter to school each day, and then working on the air as we eventually returned to the routine of playing the hits. From time to time, rumors would pop up…that envelopes in our mailroom had white powder in them…things like that which were always unfounded. But, the images of the television that morning are seared into my mind eternally.
Last Christmas, I was able to visit the 9-11 Memorial with my family, and the memories of that morning all flooded back…as they do each September 11th…