I was a senior at Hofstra University and that morning — I was getting ready in my dorm room for my magazine-writing class. It wasn’t my favorite class because I was a TV writer even back then…and I thought I could say more with fewer words. My professor didn’t agree.
Anyway — every morning I would eat breakfast while watching Regis and Kelly — their show was broken into by a news alert on this morning. The anchor said a plane had gone into the World Trade Center. I called my parents, who are also news junkies, because I knew they would be watching.
We thought it was an accident. While finishing up college I was also working full-time as a news writer at WLNY-TV55 on Long Island for their 11pm newscast. In the last few weeks I had done a few stories about “stunts gone wrong” — like this guy who parachuted and accidentally landed on the Statue of Liberty. I thought this might be a similar antic…until the second plane hit.
I was talking to my dad, a retired NYPD officer, and we knew this was serious. I watched the burning buildings on my 17-inch television set in my dorm’s common area in silence — with my dad doing the same thing in the house I grew up in on Long Island. I thought — those buildings are only 30 miles west of here…
I hung up the phone and headed off to class. I couldn’t really grasp what was happening. When I got to class — everyone was confused and we asked our professor what was going on. I will never forget what she said — “You are living history. Go watch it.”
Our classroom emptied out with the others of Dempster Hall where dozens of communications students watched history on the TVs in the hallways. When the towers fell — my professor broke down crying. I was numb. I still didn’t believe what I was seeing. I didn’t understand it.
A student next to me started to panic because his cell phone wouldn’t work. He was trying to reach his dad who worked in the World Trade Center. I gave him my cell phone to use because it had been working fine. I had never seen him before and I never saw him again. I don’t know what happened to his dad.
Another student, who had been in some of my classes, stood next to me and said “This is Osama Bin Laden — it must be.” What? I thought. Who is Osama Bin Laden? I had never heard his name before and I thought she must be crazy. This student had been in the military prior to coming to Hofstra. I asked her a few questions about him but didn’t really get it just yet.
On The Job Training
Classes were canceled for the day and I headed straight to work at the WLNY-TV55 newsroom in Melville. I remember listening to the radio and there wasn’t any music on. All the radio stations weren’t playing songs — only talking about what was happening at Ground Zero. My husband Jay and I first met in the TV55 newsroom and he was already there when I got in that day. Sports (his department) was canceled of course — we were all focused on the history that was happening in front of our eyes. The Pentagon was hit — then the plane in Pennsylvania was shot down. What else? What’s next? My head was spinning.
I remember calling members of Congress and local officials to ask if they would appear on our 11pm newscast. Writing and rewriting copy updating the possible death toll and injuries throughout the night. Still not really understanding what was happening or why. Cutting and recutting tape (we still used tapes back then) of the devastation as new pictures came in.
“Breaking News” food is a big deal in newsrooms. It’s usually pizza — but our bosses sprung for a full spread from a local diner on this night. We had been working all day and night. The usually buzzing newsroom was strangely quiet. We all went about our jobs — as we always had — but the tone was somber.
Live at 11
11pm hit and we were live. Usually we’d be chatting during the breaks and laughing about something — but not on this night. We were all silent — letting our viewers know that unfortunately the world as they know it is completely different. That in a split second — everything had changed.
I knew right then that I was in the right career — I wanted to be part of the public service to tell people what was happening in their world — good or bad. I was hooked on the news business.