18 years later – 9/11

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Like the assassination of JFK for some people, or the Challenger explosion for others, 9/11 is one of those life changing events that is forever etched in the minds of those who lived through it.  No doubt, you remember exactly what you were doing and where you were when you heard the news.  So do I.

In radio, an aircheck is a recording of your show.  It consists of just your talk breaks.  Many times your boss brings you in to listen to a past show together.  You listen to the breaks you did, talk about what was good, what was bad, how to improve your performance and so on.  On September 11, 2001, I was in my bosses office going over a show.

I was working at B95 in Flint at the time.  Brian Cleary was my boss.  We had just listened to a break where I told a stupid joke when our morning gal, Kristine Turner, came in to tell us that a plane had hit the World Trade Center.  At the time we all thought it was some sort of freak accident.  We walked out of the office and down to the newsroom.  The TV was on and there was a live shot of the World Trade Center with smoke pouring out of it.  Even the news people on the air were talking about how this was some sort of accident.  And then we watched as the second plane hit the other tower on live TV!

At this point, we understood that this was going to be no ordinary day.  When I went on  the air at 10am, I became the link to what was going on to people without access to TVs at work.  I recall breaking format and playing news updates.  I remember the South Tower collapsed just before I went on the air.  We then heard of Flight 93 going down in Pennsylvania.  Then came the news of the North Tower collapsing just before 10:30am.  It was the busiest and craziest day of my radio career.  I remember staying after my shift and manning the canopy that we had set up in the parking lot to take donations for the people in New York.  I also remember being exhausted when we wrapped up for the night.  We all knew that the days and weeks ahead were going to be VERY different. 

I don’t think any of us knew just how much the world was going to change that day.  My ex and I had just found out that we were expecting our first child, who was due in April of 2002.  I remember being scared about the world that our baby was coming into.  What we also didn’t realize was how these horrible events would bring our nation together. 

What follows is something that I posted on Facebook last year and reposted today:

“18 years ago today the people of this country forgot all about race, gender, political stance, religion, and stood together as one after the events of 9/11. What followed was a surge of patriotism that hadn’t been seen since World War II. American Pride soared. Today the country is extremely divided, and not just into two parts, but many.

Today we live in a country where everything seems to offend somebody. We tend to forget that the things of the past have made us and this country what it is today. History is history. We can look back in hindsight and see that there were things in the past that were (at the time) considered to be okay, but now we know they are not. We study history, to learn the things not to repeat. We also study history, to show us the things that worth repeating. Let’s take a lesson from history, a day 18 years ago, let’s put away the divisions. Let’s remember that no matter what race, color, or gender you are, we are all human beings.

There are plenty of scientific studies to show that it takes more effort to frown than to smile, and to hate rather than love. Today, as we remember those people who were on the planes, in the towers, in the Pentagon, or were first responders… remember the love, sadness, and the patriotism that brought this country together. Life can change in an instant. Practice kindness. Love one another.”

The emotions of that day will never be forgotten. We will never forget the acts of heroism we witnessed or the outpouring of support that was shown by Americans everywhere.  The uniting of a nation is one that I will always remember. Today I remember the people whose lives that were cut short. I remember the innocent.  I remember the heroes.

Today I reflect and remember. I hope you will too.

The King is Gone

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May 1977.  The month I turned 7 years old, two movies were released that would have major influences over my childhood, and adulthood.  The movies were Star Wars and Smokey and the Bandit.  I can recall exactly where I saw each movie, too.

I saw Star Wars at Hoover 11 when the movie theater was still in the complex.  I don’t recall the exact date I saw it, but it was within a month of it’s release.  Eventually, the theater closed and became a TJ Maxx.  It was a one screen theater, and I remember the line was long.  I remember waiting in line for what seemed like forever and it being a full house!  I also remember not being able to sleep for a week, because Darth Vader scared the hell out of me.

I do remember the exact date I saw Smokey and the Bandit. August 16, 1977 – 42 years ago today.  I believe my folks had a station wagon at the time, and we drove to the Gratiot Drive-In in Roseville.

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When you saw a movie at the Drive-In, you always got their early.  You found a good spot where you could see the screen without obstruction.  The spot also was ideally close to the bathrooms and concession stands.  You had to pull up to the pole that held the speaker that you would hang from your window, so you could hear the audio of the movie.

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The movie never started until it got dark, so I remember bringing a baseball and mitt to play catch, or we’d go to an old playground that was up near the screen.

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As the sun began to go down, we’d go back to the car and dad would usually turn on the radio.  We had an AM radio in the car, and Dad turned on Honey Radio (where I would years later have the honor of working).  I remember the DJ (I don’t recall who it was) coming on and saying that Elvis had died in Memphis.  He was only 42.  They played Elvis music for the remainder of the time we listened.

I remember the news sort of putting a damper on the night.  My dad was a big Elvis fan.  I remember him watching the Aloha From Hawaii concert in the living room. I remember the many albums he had (including the Moody Blue album on blue vinyl). And I remember how he recorded the song Way Down on 8 tracks that we listened to on the drive to Caseville.  Dad would often put Elvis songs on the stereo and play his guitar along with them.

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I’m glad that we were at the movies to see a comedy.  I recall my dad being visibly upset by the news.  I don’t know that I had ever seen him that way before.  Once the movie started, I knew he was ok.  I recall the hearty laughter from him as Jackie Gleason shouted out profanity into the CB microphone.  Those scenes continue to make dad and me laugh out loud today – no matter how many times we’ve seen them!

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I remember in the days before VCR’s.  I used to record movies on cassettes so I could hear my favorite scenes.  I had no idea that in the future you’d be able to go out and buy your favorite movies on DVD and Blu-Ray.  Smokey and the Bandit was on cable one night at like 12:30am.  It was the last time that month that it was airing.  To me, it could have been the last time it ever aired!  I asked my dad to record it for me on cassette.  When I listened back to it, I could hear dad laughing at all of the Jackie Gleason scenes.  I was probably mad about it at the time, but looking back, I know I’d have done the same thing!

In everyone’s life, there are events that become etched forever in your mind.  For some, it was when they heard Buddy Holly died.  For others, it was when JFK or Martin Luther King Jr. was shot. Those become memories that when you look back on them, you remember exactly where you were, who you were with, and what you were doing.  I have a few of those memories – President Reagan being shot, the Challenger explosion, and, of course, 9/11. The first one that is forever etched in my mind, though, happened 42 years ago today.

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