September 11, 2009

9/11: Where Were You?

August 27, 2001: I confirm my flight time for an upcoming trip to NYC on the 11th, booked on the 8am flight.

August 31-September 2, 2001: I enjoy a weekend with friends at a cottage and inform them of my upcoming trip. My buddy Mike suggests the two of us should do the trip some time and enjoy some Yankees’ games and bad food.

September 5, 2001: After a pretty busy summer of travel, I decide to cancel the NYC trip. The decision is to reschedule in a few weeks.

September 11, 2001

8:13: American Airlines Flight 11 bound for Los Angeles has its last routine communication with the FAA's air traffic control center in Boston.

8:14: Flight 11 fails to heed instructions to climb to 35,000 feet.

8:14: United Airlines Flight 175 departs from Boston Logan airport, also bound for LA.

8:21 Flight 11's transponder signal is turned off but plane remains on radar screens as a blip without additional information.

8:25: Boston Center flight controllers alert other flight control centers regarding Flight 11.

8:30: Management meeting begins on time as usual. Anyone late has to buy coffee and donuts for the dozen or so in the room. There’s a lot to cover as all three of our radio stations have just entered big ratings periods. We will need to review some budget items as well.

8:46: Flight 11 crashes into the north face of the North Tower of the World Trade Center.

8:51: Hijacking begins on Flight 77.

8:54: Flight 77 deviates from its assigned course turning south over Ohio.

8:56: Our news director gets a call and quickly leaves the room. Our General Manager wonders why he's interupting but keeps the meeting moving along.

8:58: Flight 175 takes a heading toward New York City.

9:03: Flight 175 crashes in to the south face of the South Tower of the World Trade Center.

9:10: Our news director returns to inform us that the aircraft that hit the World Trade Center which was originally thought to be a twin-engine plane was actually a commercial jet. Meeting over. We race to the nearest television and watch as if we are viewing a horror film.

9:13: We suddenly grasp the gravity of the situation and move in to action. Three radio stations, three studios and ours half a block away on the street level.

9:15: Bush leaves the classroom and enters another one commandeered by the Secret Service.

9:28: Hijackers storm the cockpit on Flight 93 and take over the flight. The entry of the hijackers is overheard by flight controllers at Cleveland.

9:29: President Bush makes his first public statements about the attacks in front of an audience of about 200 teachers and students at the elementary school.

9:32: Our morning show producer dials up news feeds while five of us each grab a computer and start to dig for information.

9:35: Flight 93 reverses direction over Ohio and starts flying eastwards.

9:36: Based on a report that Flight 77 had turned again and was circling back toward the District of Columbia.

9:43: The White House and the Capitol are evacuated and closed.

9:45: United States airspace is shut down.

9:48: Our studio is full of people trying to gather as much information as possible. It’s numbing to be in the media while the world is panicking. The usually busy Yonge Street in downtown Toronto is virtually abandoned.

9:53: CNN confirms a plane crash at the Pentagon.

9:57: Passenger revolt begins on Flight 93.

9:59: The South Tower of the World Trade Center collapses.

10:01: A brief silence – which felt like an hour – fell over the studio. Our morning team held it together but thoughts of leaving to find loved ones overwhelmed us all. Something made us all stay and do what we could.

10:03: United Airlines Flight 93 is crashed by its hijackers southeast of Pittsburgh.

10:10: Part of the west side of the Pentagon collapses.

10:15: We turn our radio station over to the CNN feed and let the experts take over. Our morning team makes sporatic local announcements over the next hour.

10:28: The North Tower of the World Trade Center collapses.

10:50: Five stories of part of the Pentagon collapse due to the fire.

11:30: Our morning team goes on the air with fresh information from a local perspective. There are concerns that many of the Toronto landmarks would be targets – including the world’s tallest free standing structure – The CN Tower.

11:55: The border between the U.S. and Mexico is on highest alert.

4:28: I return to my office and notice my voice mail light is flashing. The electronic voice says “You have 52 new messages”. Among them were concerned listeners, all of my cottage buddies who hadn’t heard I cancelled my NYC trip, my entire immediate family and two friends I hadn’t seen in years. The office was eerily quiet. I was numb. The world was numb.

4:51: I realize that if I had taken that 8am flight to NYC, I would have landed at LaGuardia at around 9am and watched it all unfold in the airport or perhaps worst, in the back of a cab on the bridge into Manhattan.

Lost friends reunited, the important things became important again and the next month was a blur for everyone. Eight years later, the topic of September 11th, 2001 still comes up almost on a weekly basis.

What have we learned?
What has improved?
What has changed?

Let's create experiences, not campaigns

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