The morning newscasts went well. One of my directors wanted to talk with me about some issue or another, so after the studio was cleaned up, he and I sat down. It wasn't long before we got a knock on the door. "We just heard from the newsroom that a small plane hit one of the twin towers. They want us back on the air."
While this was not a normal occurrence, it didn't seem like a major news event. We gathered the crew back to the studio and control room. One of the morning anchors sat down at the news desk and within moments we rolled the "breaking news" animation.
By this time, we had video feeds tuned in and were recording from several different sources. What we didn't have were details of what happened. "That's a lot of smoke from a little plane," someone said as we watched the playback of the video.
The producer was sitting behind the director while the anchor adlibbed about what we did know--which wasn't much. Information starting filtering from the newsroom upstairs which the producer passed along to the anchor. There was a growing feeling of uneasiness, yet, we were professionals and were staying on task. We were playing back some of the better video we had captured, and the anchor continued to comment on what we were seeing.
Then, one of the production crew who was watching one of the other feeds said, "Oh my!
Another airplane just hit the other tower! And it was a BIG plane!"
To this day, I can still picture this event in my mind. For a moment, no one said anything. It was like everyone was taking in a collective breath.
And then. . .chaos.
People started screaming to find video of what just happened and cue it up to playback. The anchor stumbled over her words as the producer started yelling into her earpiece that another plane had crashed into the other tower. Over the intercom from the newsroom came several voices at once--each of them shouting and giving orders on what to do.
The director did her best to listen to all the commands thrown her way, several of them contradicting each other. Soon, we had the video cued up and we played in on the air. For the first time, we, as a collective group watched the second tower get struck. For me, it felt like someone had hit me hard in the stomach.
The next several hours were a blur. I recall one of my audio technicians sitting in a corner and crying. I remember one of my camera operators getting so mad at whoever did this, we needed him to take a walk to clear his head. Reports of other planes crashing came in. At the pentagon. In a field in Pennsylvania. We had no idea what would happen next.
I tried to call home, but all the lines were busy. We stayed live on the air all day. As the Operations Manager, I made sure my people were fed and rotated through. We called the evening crew to come in early.
It seemed that every minute I was being pulled in four different directions. Sometimes as liaison between the newsroom and the production team, sometimes as decision maker, and over time, I became more and more of a comforter and supporter of my team as we all tried to make sense of what was happening before us.
In the late afternoon, we got in a story from one of our reporters. A man had walked onto one of the overpasses that spanned I-95. In his hands was an American flag. He was waving it back and forth. When the reporter asked the man why he was doing this, his answer was along the line of, "I had to do something. I just couldn't sit still. It may not seem like much, but I'm doing something."
Watching that story, I felt something I'd not felt since the events started that morning.