Friday, September 11, 2015

My 9/11 Story

Everyone in broadcasting has their own 9/11 story. This one is mine. I was the executive producer of the John Landecker show at the time. In the pages of “Records Truly Is My Middle Name“, John Landecker tells the full story of that day on the air…

The most unique broadcast that I have ever been a part of, has nothing to do with planning, promotion, prizes, and listeners. It was the morning of September 11th, 2001.

I’m sure that every morning show in the country has their own story of what they did when the planes hit the twin towers in New York. This is mine.

We were doing our regular show. Our producer Rick was on the phone with Butch Patrick, who had played Eddie Munster on The Munsters. He was going to be a mystery guest — listeners were to call in and try to figure out who he was. When Rick got in touch with Butch, the news had just broken that a plane had flown into the World Trade Center.

“Are you watching this?” Butch asked Rick.

“Yeah,” Rick replied. “I don’t think we’re going to do this mystery guest bit.”

“No, you better not,” Butch replied.

Brant Miller was our weatherman and had a broadcast line hookup to his home. He was also the meteorologist for NBC-Channel 5 in Chicago, and had access to all of the NBC News information. Richard Cantu was our news man, and he’s a real journalist, and was connected to the CBS Radio network.

Needless to say, after the news had come across that the first plane had hit, we turned on the television in the studio, and we were all watching it, and the microphones were open, when the second plane hit the tower.

I’ll never forget what Brant Miller said: “We’re under attack.”

Well what do you do in a situation like that? Our decision was to go all news right on the spot. There weren’t many details early on, so there was a lot of repetition, as to the content, but we didn’t play any music. I thought it would really be ridiculous to play “Hang on Sloopy” and then do more content about being under attack.

We did play commercials, but not because the clients had paid for them to air — because we needed that time to regroup and find out as much information as we could so we could better inform our audience what was going on. News stations didn’t play commercials, but they were set up to handle this much better than we were. They had a full staff on hand. We just had the four or five of us in the studio.

But I’m really proud of what we were able to deliver. Brant was able to tap into what NBC was getting. Richard was able to tap into what CBS was getting. And I sort of quarterbacked and anchored the whole thing; repeating the facts as we knew them, and encouraging people not to jump to conclusions about who did this, because we didn’t know anything for sure.

I found out later that listeners stuck with us during that morning show, and didn’t tune into the news station, and that the radio station itself toyed with the idea of keeping us on the air until noon. The adrenaline, the being in the moment, and the feeling you have in that situation takes on a whole different sensation — one that I hope I never have again frankly.

It was certainly one of the most memorable mornings I’ve ever spent on the air.

Leslie Keiling was one of the co-hosts of the show during the WJMK run, including the day of 9/11. This is how she recalled that time… “I wouldn’t trade the time we spent together on the morning show at WJMK for anything in the world. Being with everyone on that show on the morning of 9/11/2001 is etched in my head and heart. I now have a glimmer of understanding about sharing a foxhole.”