My recollections of 9/11 begin with my short drive to work. I was the news director of KERA 90.1 at the time and as was my habit, I began my day listening to KERA and NPR on the radio as soon as I awakened.
Nothing was particularly unusual until I hopped in my car and I heard the national anchor and newscaster report that a plane had crashed into the World Trade Center’s Twin Towers in New York. My immediate reaction was, “What kind of a pilot would make such a serious mistake?” I thought it must have been a small, malfunctioning plane that had gotten lost or off track. It was an accident, it seemed.
NPR had played that news carefully with minimal detail because the organization hadn’t been able to confirm what had happened, so I kept driving, but then the details started to trickle out: Two planes hit and they were large, passenger crafts; they were from American Airlines, headquartered in DFW. Suddenly the horrible reality hit me. This was no accident and I picked up my cellphone to call KERA’s anchor. What did he know, I asked? Not more than what was broadcast from Washington, but we both knew there would be implications for Dallas and Fort Worth. Although I was nearing the station, the drive couldn’t happen quickly enough.
As soon as I rushed into the newsroom, I cancelled the assignments we had for that day, and our reporting staff and I huddled. What do we need to cover, as the story unfurls? Someone was dispatched to DFW airport, another to the Earle Cabell Federal Building in downtown Dallas, and the rest of us worked the phones. I was concerned that an attack could happen here, and then what would we do? No matter what the uncertainty and chaos were, we couldn’t let it affect us. We had to be calm and think about our community of audiences first.
Aside from dealing with our own reports, I also spent my time answering calls from NPR, the BBC and Radio Netherlands, among others, all needing access to either us or our studios. We had to feed news around the world. I could see the tasks at hand, but little did I realize life in our country would never be the same.