Twelve times I have looked back at the events that happened on September 11 2001. Twelve times I have searched my memory at the events that unfolded before my eyes and ears. Twelve times I have told myself “it seems like yesterday”. Twelve times I have said ” I will always remember where I was and what I was doing”.
As the years go by, the memory gets more poignant and never gets any easier.
It was a Tuesday just like any other Tuesday in 2001. I was hosting my morning radio show that some of you may remember. It was a little show that was fortunate to be syndicated in several markets. “Ray Lytle’s Morning Disaster” was a show that was branded with one word…Irreverence. It was a stupid show that focused on a lot of humor, slight titillation, moments of shock and mostly just fun. It was a show that also prided itself on being real. If someone was going through something personal it was put on the air. If someone did something stupid it was put on the air. If something was happening behind the scenes it was put on the air. In fact the motto of the show was Everything should be done on the air and it should be done with the sole purpose of entertaining the audience. We were doing the usual show with Jim the Photographer doing his usual stunts on the street, the writers coming up with their usual parody segments and or songs and me being me talking about whatever thing had me in a good mood or angry or confused on that particular day.
THEN IT HAPPENED. The plane hit the building. Not the first plane but the second. When the first plane hit we were under the impression like so many that it was some imbecile in a Cesna that couldn’t properly read a gauge. It was something we joked about even. I remember the guys from the back coming in and telling me what happened. I remember going on the air and saying something along the lines of “details unclear but it looks like some jackass ran his little prop plane into one of the towers, probably because the Jets lost”. We had no idea what was to come.
The second plane pierced the tower like it was shot out of a precision bow and the explosions happened. This wasn’t a Cesna. This was an attack. It was that moment everything changed.
The show went from comedy and Irreverence to something different. It had gone from being radio real to as REAL as it could get. We had the ears of people all over Illinois via the syndication. We had the ears of the person who was at home or not near a TV. We had the ears of so many people who wished they were home. I had the last thing in common with everyone listening.
We took a show based on irreverence and turned it into a show that I feel helped soothe people on a terrible day. I know it soothed me to talk about it. I have written before about how all the people on the show sprung to action. I remember these amazingly talented people who only knew how to do a comedy show suddenly all turned into news producers feeding me information that I would instantly share with the listeners. I remember the amazing phone calls from people working in offices, driving work vans, and hammering nails while working on a roof. I remember how many times we reminded you all to go home and hug your family. I remember being angry when one of the syndicated shows dumped out of the programming early because they said “enough of the news BS we need to play music” I remember staying on the air until late in the day when I could no longer speak. Laryngitis had set in and there was nothing left to do. I remember the sadness mixed with hope as the hours drug on.
I remembered how professionally for me everything changed. I remember thinking maybe there is more to radio then just irreverence.
I will always remember where I was and what I was doing and most importantly who I was doing it for.