What about tomorrow?
Tuesday, September 18, 2001
CNYRadio.com's Scott Jameson reflects upon an evening on the air at Oldies 92.1 on the night of 9/11 in an article posted several days after the terrorist attacks.
It is a rare moment when we in the media are at a loss for what to
say. Sadly, last Tuesday provided us with one of those moments.
My wife had called me at work to talk about that morning's events in
New York City, and was the first to tell me that the towers
"Just the top of them, right?", I asked, not even considering
that 900,000 tons of building could become a pile of dust in a
matter of a few seconds.
"The whole towers... both of them", she said.
I just closed my eyes in silence.
Words don't exist that express the weight of the tragedy that has
befallen us all. Horrifying, devastating, catastrophic,
they all fit, but somehow don't echo the significance of the
screams and the stunned silence, emotions that have no syllables,
that form no sentences, that speak not a word, but say so much.
I turned on my desk radio to find that all of the Syracuse
stations had switched to continuous coverage of the unfolding
events. I was scheduled to fill in for John Carucci that
night at Oldies 92.1, so I called Diane Wade at around
11:00 to see what the plan was for the rest of the day. Like
everyone else, WSEN was playing it by ear at that point and we were
relying on non-stop CNN radio coverage. Later in the afternoon
we had switched back to mostly music programming because our
CNN feed had been cut back to shorter updates throughout each hour.
Having had the experience of being on the air for two previous
national emergencies, I had some apprehension about doing a
music show that night. Back in 1986, I was a young DJ fresh
out of college doing the midday shift at a country station in
Richmond, Virginia the morning the space shuttle Challenger exploded. A few
years later, the evening of the Pan Am 103 bombing also found
me behind the microphone at a station back here in Syracuse.
Those events were unnerving, this was much worse.
At seven o'clock, as my Tuesday night shift started, most people had
returned home from work, were connecting with family and friends,
and were undoubtedly glued to the continuous television coverage.
Playing music and "entertaining" Central New York was
not an easy task that day. The songs on my computer playlist for the evening
included "Eve of Destruction", "Nowhere to Run",
"Leavin' on a Jet Plane", and "Stuck in the Middle With You".
I had to scratch those. Then there was the other end of the
spectrum, "Celebrate" by Kool and the Gang, and James Brown's
"I Feel Good". In the end, I had to pull more than half of
the scheduled songs. A few got by me. I played "American Pie"
with its haunting chorus "this'll be the day that I die."
Thankfully we weren't playing commercials, and the questions
for "Tuesday Night Trivia" lay untouched in my show prep
folder. Then there was the issue of what do I say?
Our tag line of "Good Times and Great Oldies!!" seemed
inappropriate. For the first few hours, I couldn't even bring myself
to mention my name for fear that it would somehow come off as
self-promotional. But I also had the sense that music, chosen
carefully, could be of comfort to those who may have been
growing weary of the unending coverage. I had dreaded coming in that night, but ended up glad that I was there.
Requests ranged from Charlie Daniels' "In America" from a
listener who passionately vowed, "we need to send those guys a
message!!", to a woman seeking solace in the lyrics of
"Get Together" by the Youngbloods:
Come on people now,
smile on your brother,
everybody get together,
try to love one another right now
In times of uncertainty, when trepidation of days to come sets in,
I am reminded of the lyrics to a John Denver song which was
a favorite of mine as a young teen:
Talk of poems and prayers and promises and things that we believe in,
how sweet it is to love someone, how right it is to care,
how long it's been since yesterday, and what about tomorrow,
and what about the dreams and all the memories we share
What about tomorrow?
Today there are no easy answers, but with compassion,
strength, and hope, as a family, may tomorrow shine down upon
-- Scott Jameson