Hard to believe it’s been 21 years since 9/11. That’s the length of time it takes a person to be born, graduate high school, almost college and become an adult old enough to buy a drink. I believe anyone of a reasonable age could tell you exactly where they were and what they were doing on September 11, 2001 when the Twin Towers were attacked. I had just walked into the studio at my old station, 1065 The End. It was 5 days before our annual “End of Summer Concert” called The Weenie Roast. I remember taking heat when I insisted some months prior that we call it “Lucky 7” because it was our 7th annual show. Someone had commented that by naming it that, I had jinxed it for sure.
We carried the syndicated “Bob & Tom” show at that time and we also had a TV on in the conference room and I walked in at the exact moment the first plane hit. My first thought and the opinions of the staff with me was that a small private aircraft had crashed into The World Trade Center. We were discussing that as were the TV anchors at the time the second plane hit and then we knew it was some type of an attack. It was the most surreal feeling I had ever experienced in my life. Bob & Tom were starting to receive the word and their show began reporting as they watched network TV like the rest of us. At that time, K104.7’s current media partner, WSOC-TV was our media partner at The End so at 10am it was decided that no one was going to cover this event as well as the TV networks, so for the next 24 hours at least, we carried WSOC’s TV audio and when they broke for commercials, then we aired ours. I immediately called my wife and made sure she was ok and I asked about my kids because no one knew how widespread these attacks might be.
We all watched in horror when the towers collapsed and just couldn’t believe this was happening. Our country fought wars, but never on our soil. It was mind numbing. We watched and sensed the mood of the country grow more somber by the moment. When I was able to get home that evening, I remember just wanting to be with my wife and kids and we sat and watched more coverage while we ate our supper. My son had just turned 16 and my daughter would soon be 12. They were both old enough to understand that our lives had just changed forever. Gone was that sense of security that I had always had. More present was a sense of dread that anything could now happen in America. We were no longer immune to the violence that the rest of the world had grown so used to.
As the world reeled and air travel stopped, we had to turn some attention back to our business at hand. We were now 4 days away from a concert that was already booked and tickets were sold to. Do we cancel, postpone or have the show as planned. The country was in shock. How could anyone know what to do at a time like this? We consulted with Live Nation and Verizon Wireless Amphitheater as they were partners in the show. The name of the venue had just changed from Blockbuster Pavilion to Verizon Wireless Amphitheater earlier in 2001. Ultimately we put it out to the listeners on the air. Overwhelmingly, fans of the station and the music were heard loud and clear, “We can’t let the terrorists disrupt our way of life. The right thing to do was have the show”. We lost a few artists who couldn’t get to us due to the planes being grounded, but most all the artists agreed with our listeners that the show must go on.
It was now 3 days before the Weenie Roast and as more and more info came to light about the hi-jackers, I had never seen such an outpouring of patriotism. American flags were everywhere, at half staff in memory of those who had died. Fireman, Police and medical workers were the heroes for all they did in the rescue and clean up. We arranged for two giant cranes to be on each side of the lawn at The Weenie Roast holding up a giant American flag. The show was close to being sold out prior to the concert. After the 9/11 tragedy, some folks stayed home, they were just not in a party mood. The bands that could physically get there did. The proposed lineup was 3 Doors Down, Crystal Method, Dave Navarro, Athenaeum, American Hi-Fi, The Fixx, Poe, American Hi-Fi and more. I remember that the show opened with area Fire, Police and EMT’s standing on stage while Mark from Athenaeum sang the National Anthem. There was a new band called Nickelback that opened the second stage, only to return for Weenie Roast 8 as the headliner a year later.
I remember there was a new national change of attitude where people, including my family, wanting to stop putting off things that we wanted to do, to go ahead and do them because you never know what might happen. In October 2001, we traveled to Vegas and experienced it almost deserted as the city tried to get tourist comfortable flying again. In November over Thanksgiving, for a ridiculously low price, we went to Venice, Italy for $499 per person including airfare and hotel. You almost feel guilty that an event with bad memories, opened doors for people to start living and get to experience good memories. It made people appreciate what we had and vow to let an event like 9/11 NEVER happen again.
It was a time that I refer to now as “eerie”. Now, 21 years later, I am drawn to the irony of how a nation dealt with one crisis and then how that same nation dealt with another so drastically different 19 years later. 9/11 brought our nation together to fight a common enemy. When the world, including our country, was attacked by an unknown virus in February of 2020, it tore our country apart. We all saw the enemy after 9/11. I wonder where we’d be today if we could have captured the spirit we used to come together on 9/11 and focused it on fighting Covid-19. Hard to believe. Remember the people we lost and how we banded together to overcome it.