I was working, on September 11th, 2001, as a master control operator for a small PBS station in California. In case you don’t know what a master control operator does, they are the ones who actually get the programs, either from tape, live satellite or live studio onto the air.
That morning started as most did for me, I arrived at the station at five a.m., we started our broadcast day at Six a.m. Pacific Time. The first program was a fifteen-minute news broadcast out of Florida, which I would tape at 5:45 then do a VERY quick rewind to get it on the air (thankfully we had a function on the tape machine that made this fairly easy).
The last thing on the news broadcast (roughly 8:59 a.m. Eastern Time) was “We have just been informed a plane has hit the world trade center.”
I rewound and put the news on time on the air and while concerned, didn’t think much of it until I got a phone call from the President of the Station.
“Walt, I need you to lock down the station, make sure everyone comes through the front door.”
I quickly posted a sign on the side doors during the 6:30 program. By then, the Chief Engineer had arrived and filled me in.
While we played the rest of the morning and early afternoon programming on air, those of us in master control had a television tuned it to the local network news, watching the footage of the planes hitting the towers over and over on replay.
I had friends in New York, and the Chief Engineer had a nephew that worked as a fire-fighter. They all made it through that day, many more did not.