‘It was all so surreal’ — NJ 101.5 listeners’ memories of 9/11
Most people can recall exactly where they were and what they were doing on Sept. 11, 2001, when the tragic news began to spread that the United States was under attack.
As 2017 marks the 16th anniversary of the tragedy, we remember the family members, friends and community members whose lives were lost. On that morning Jim Gearhart was on the air with a caller named Linda Leaver-Dyson, discussing education. It was a typical morning discussing issues in the Garden State, but within seconds, everything changed forever. Reports started pouring in as eyewitnesses called in to explain what they were seeing.
In past years we asked NJ 101.5 listeners to share their stories, condolences and remembrances with us on social media. For many, the memories are as vivid as they were 16 years ago. Some were driving and running errands or in school, like any other day. Others had family members who were supposed to be in Manhattan, but as fate would have it, they weren't in the city when the attacks took place. Then there are those who will always be plagued with the memory of actually watching from various locations as the planes struck the towers of the World Trade Center.
Here are some of heartfelt responses our listeners have shared:
'It was all so surreal'
"I remember that morning, after the first plane hit, the subject changed to what was going on, one caller saw the second plane hit as he was on the phone and Jim (Gearhart) seemed at first to not believe him." - Mark Gaunt
"Shared that tragic moment with Jim. God Bless us." - Stanley "Steve" Parish
"The caller (that Jim Gearhart was talking to on the air) was me and It was really scary." - Linda Leaver-Dyson
"I was at the Hess station on 34 in Aberdeen and the attendant was talking about something that happened, but I had a hard time understanding him. I turned on the car radio and heard the news from Jim. I drove over to the Keyport waterfront, where a few people were already gathered, and we could see the towers from there. While on my way there, I heard about the Pentagon, and I knew the world had just changed. I told the others who were there about it, and everyone scattered to their cars to listen to the radio. It was all so surreal." - Diana Lenz
"I was on the playground with my 2nd grade PE class. My dad pulled up & said the towers had been hit by planes. I glanced east - we're about 8 miles from Manhattan - and didn't see smoke or anything, so I was skeptical. My dad left in a huff. Next my husband pulled up, and as he was supposed to have been in NYC already, I got a real bad feeling. Turns out he'd overslept after watching the Giants (thank you, Giants!) and missed his train." - Linda Mullaney
"I was on my way to work driving at least 65 mph while listening to the radio. It was time for the traffic report, but instead of reporting the traffic, the reporter in the chopper said that there had been an accident with a plane crashing into one of the World Trade Towers, that he could see a lot of smoke coming out of the building. Instantly most of the traffic on the Garden State Parkway slowed down and I could see people fumbling with their radios to see if other channels were reporting the same horrible news. I was the first one to announce the terrible news to my co-workers when I arrived. We only had piped muzak in our building but a radio somehow appeared and we listened to it all day. It was a horrible day. I still feel sick whenever I think about it." - Helene Udell Rotondo
"I was at work that day and one of my colleagues walked in and told us. We turned on the tv right away and then we saw the 2nd tower go down. Guys in the back of our building saw fighter jets flying past our building. That day truly changed a lot of lives forever." - Linda Kelly Palumbo
"I was in high school, junior year when someone walked in my history class. They said the World Trade Center was hit. I said to a classmate by what they said a plane. I said okay. It didn't register with me what he was saying so he says you know the twin towers and I'm like I was there last week showing family friends NYC. He said that's what the plane hit. At that point I looked to my teacher and said I need to find my sister and get her from class and call my mom. My Aunt worked in the city. Long story short my sister, two friends from our youth group, and five other students we sat and prayed. Three different religions praying because what more could we do. Catholic Jewish and Muslims praying. When we got home and I saw the Tv I realized that the world I knew changed forever. My aunt somehow missed the train or the train was late but her building 7 collapsed." - Mary McMyers
"I was listening to 101.5 that day. I still remember that callers voice who watched the 2nd plane hit while he was on the air. It was right then and there when I realized our lives were forever changed." Ann Rumowicz Henning
"Saw the second plane fly into the second tower from bay ridge section of Brooklyn." - Peter F. Solotruk
" I remember that morning ... was listening to Jim ... in a state of shock ... kept thinking this cant be real ... may those that perished RIP and prayers to the survivors ... we will never forget ... always in our hearts." Angel Taylor Prohaska
"I was in NYC working at Rockefeller center. I saw it all. Watched down 5th avenue." - Janet Moskowitz
'Embrace life' and never forget
"I will never forget. My prayers are with everyone. (In 2001), hate lashed out. Today, in memory of the lives lost and those irrevocably changed on 9/11, reach out in love. Offer smiles freely. Hold the door. Practice random acts of kindness. Put aside petty squabbles. Live for the moment. Embrace and celebrate the life you have in honor of those that lost theirs." - Teraan Tesoro-Edelman
"We seem to forget the ones that are effected and are still alive. They are the ones living in pain every single day, and they need us not to forget about them....The ones lost are at peace. God bless." - Maggie Brzozowska Kusnierczak
"Its not about conspiracy theories today. Just the lives lost for no reason." - Kathleen Woodley Strittmatter
"WE WILL (AND SHOULD) NEVER FORGET." - Ceily Bright
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Toniann Antonelli is digital managing editor for programs for NJ 101.5. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Twitter @ToniRadio1015.