Reflecting on September 11, 2001 has become a public exercise. I imagine, for many who worked that day outside of New York, Washington and western Pennsylvania, it's a day that brings up just as much raw emotion as it does remembering how we did our jobs.
For our radio news operation, that September 11 was wrapping up the meat of morning drive. Our experiences moving forward -- putting the first word on the air, then acting as others stared unbelieving at the images on television, then working to put as much information as possible for our listeners -- mirror what I'm sure every other newsroom outside of New York, D.C. and Pennsylvania went through that day. We were typical in Akron, even when we learned one of those jet contrails that we saw in the skies over northeast Ohio was, in fact, Flight 93.
Hearing the air traffic control chatter as we played it this morning, with the Cleveland traffic center calling for the pilot and getting a hijacker in return, is as chilling today as it was when speculation had the flight over our heads. We didn't know then of the heroism of the passengers and crew aboard Flight 93. It hits home listening to those tapes. It hit home watching Scott Pelley's segment from Somerset County last night on the CBS Evening News.
I still have trouble watching the coverage. I know many others, journalist or otherwise, don't need the reminder. We see those images as clearly today as we did in shock then.
In 2001, it was doing our job to describe what was unfolding for those still in their cars on their way to work, or wrapping up their morning and preparing for errands the rest of the day. Our eyes did not turn away. Our skills in telling the story of what was happening 500 miles away, and the impact it had in our listening area, extended into the night. We were a lifeline for those without a television, keeping them informed until they watched for themselves. Those of us in programming went to work; anyone with programming experience was called to duty. The rest of our co-workers quickly wrapped up their duties -- preparing the next day's log, inputting sales orders, working on station promotions -- either lent a hand, or went home when we closed the offices early. Just like so many other offices. Afternoon rush hour came after ten in the morning.
In 2001, radio was different than it is now; a media platform transitioning at the time with new technology ushering in new efficiency. I remember music stations that on September 10th dismissed the need for a newscast, or even a credible strategy of presenting information to their audience in time of crisis. That was up to stations that had a staff. Programmers considered news no different than a spot break; listeners only need sixty to ninety seconds of news and then it better include plenty of lifestyle.
After 8:40 Eastern time on the morning of September 11th, that changed. Stations scrambled to get television sets in studios so they could simulcast CNN, or find some way to snag a network feed. Back then, networks considered the national crisis and looked the other way -- even encouraged stations to rank public service first. Back then, we got a tragic refresher course that broadcast radio still mattered. Having people skilled in knowing what to do, and acting responsibly, mattered.
Ten years later we remember that morning. It was our generation's Pearl Harbor; it was a generation's awakening. It still runs raw.
We are at war on two fronts, still. We are engaged on multiple fronts around the world, with the victims of 9/11 still fresh, frozen in that time. It refined the way many of us view police, fire, ambulance and other first responders. It changed the way we view the military, and the men and women who serve. It changed the way Americans think about our security, and the standard our own personal liberties hold when ranking with personal security.
As a broadcaster, it also stands as an example of the role we play in our communities, and just why it is important for us to do what we do. Just as first responders, Marines and soldiers, airmen and seamen, and security forces do their job it is also critical for us to do our jobs. To report, to question, and to make sure the people of our communities know what happens in the world around us and how it impact us even when our world extends to next door.
What happened on September 11, 2001 still matters. Those who were lost on that day, those who have paid for their selfless actions to help with sickness, those who continue to pay with their service, and those who paid with their blood and sacrifice, deserve no less.