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How David Letterman, Alan Jackson and Mark McGuinn Helped Me Return to Normal on Air After the 9/11 Attacks

9/11 memorial
Mark Wilson, Getty Images

Today is the 12th anniversary of the terrorist attacks on New York City back in 2001, perhaps the darkest day in our history. Leslie and I were reflecting this morning on where we were when the attacks happened and what we were doing. I was on the air on WKDQ when I heard a sound bite on the ABC newscast I was recording about a small plane hitting one of the World Trade Center towers. I was just coming out of a break, made the announcement about what I had heard and said we would have an update after the song, not having any clue of what had just occurred.

Over the next 20 minutes, I along with my partner Stan Clark began reporting the events as they unfolded becoming more horrified with every new detail and finding it very difficult to speak, let alone report what needed to be reported. I can honestly say that I was sick to my stomach, I had tears rolling down my face and wanted so desperately to be anywhere other than behind that microphone.

We all know what happened and will never forget the events of that day. As a broadcaster, it was one of those moments for which there is no set of rules on how to continue keeping that station on air, especially when you are a music station. What do you say… what are you supposed to do? We just did not know and it was the most difficult day of my professional life. I was focused on getting out the information and trying to keep my composure, which was the toughest thing I ever had to do on air.

In the days that followed, I just could not shake the sadness and stress of what we all witnessed and being on the air at that time just felt wrong. The following day, we just couldn’t play music on the morning show so, we abandoned the music for the morning, opened the phone lines and took your calls live and uncensored, which really helped Stan and I get through each day…your calls helped us heal.

I was still giving serious thought to giving up being on the air and walking away from the one thing I loved so much and believed in so passionately. I had just about made my decision late on the night of September 17th, 2001 when David Letterman returned to the airwaves for the first time since the attacks.

Letterman gave an opening monologue that changed my professional life. I had no idea how to express what I was feeling and knew somehow that I had to either return to the airwaves and move on as normally as possible or just move on with my life and my children. Letterman said exactly what I was feeling inside as a broadcaster and at the end of his monologue, my decision was clear and I returned to the air the next morning, dedicated to moving forward past this because that is what Americans do and what America is all about.

So, here I sit 12 years later, again with tears rolling down my face being so thankful for David Letterman’s courage to say what had to be said. Thank you, David, from the deepest regions of my soul.

As a result of finding a coping mechanism to deal with what we witnessed, several songwriters began to put their thoughts to paper and out of those notes, came a couple of very powerful songs that personally, brought me to my knees. The first was Alan Jackson’s ‘Where Were You’. The other was by a singer songwriter friend of mine, Mark McGuinn who did ‘More Beautiful Today’. The videos for both are below.

 

 

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