We were about to air a produced segment. We had given ex-Presidents/politicians new careers. Bill Clinton had opened a brothel; Al Gore had a comedy club – there were a lot of crickets when he took to the stage.
I was literally about to press play as the song came to a close, and the phone line lit up.
On a music station, during a morning show, the phone lines are always lighting up:
- “Can you play Alicia Keys this morning?”
- “What’s that song that the guy sings, and it’s slow, and it’s got a drum that’s kind of heavy…”
- “Hey! Can you play Do It Like a Lady by Aerosmith?”
On a music station, you learn to answer with things like:
- “It’s coming up.”
- “You’re thinking of Lifehouse.” And…
- “It’s Dude Looks Like a Lady, but I might be able to get it on here in a sec. Thanks for listening! Have a great day!”
On a music station, you don’t answer the phones if you can help it. But I felt compelled to answer it.
“102.3 The Planet.”
“Molly, it’s Heidi.”
Heidi is my best friend. She knew me with big hair, when I chain-smoked, when I was less than forgiving, when the world was still very “or” and not very “and” – black or white, right or wrong. She loved me anyway. Loves me anyway.
“What up, Bitchie.”
“Something has happened. A plane hit the World Trade Center.”
It was 11 days before my 23rd birthday; a month before my wedding. Life is funny; things change. I was slowly computing what her words meant. We segued into the next song. The ex-Presidents/politicians bit would not play that day.
“Hold on.” I logged into the computer – this old, slightly large computer that crashed on the hour, every hour. I couldn’t get online.
“Piece of shit. I can’t get online. Heidi, I need you to go on air and tell me what’s going on since you can see the TV.”
It was brief. She simply explained what she saw. We hung up – “I love you. Bye.”
People were trickling into the station. We broke into our General Manager’s office – he was the only one with a TV. We turned it on just as the second plane hit. I remember the “smack” as it made contact.
That morning, I became a reporter. These are my notes from that day.
I remember scrolling through music that was coming up and trying to take out the stuff that felt inappropriately happy – Katrina and the Waves’ “Walking on Sunshine” was one I clearly remember.
We watched as people jumped to their deaths. As the towers fell. As people ran.
Then, I would go into the studio, turn on the mic and just tell people what I was seeing. I spent the next two hours on air, reporting. Only I wasn’t a reporter. I was a 23-year-old morning show host who kept saying things like, “As I learn about stuff, you’ll learn about stuff.” And “Umm…I have nothing confirmed.” And “Holy crap! I have no idea what’s going on.”
Later, at Clear Channel music stations across the United States, a list went out. I wasn’t part of Clear Channel, but I got the memo, forwarded from a friend with “What the hell is this?!?”” as the subject line. The memo offered a list of songs that perhaps shouldn’t be played for a while. Things like “Bennie and the Jets,” “Mack the Knife,” and “You Dropped a Bomb on Me.” I didn’t save it. I’m sure it’s on the interwebs somewhere.
Later, when she and I would talk about it, I remember cry laughing as she said, “What the fuck The Gap Band ever do to you?”
I still love that song. “I…I – I…I – I…I won’t forget it.”