The terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 stunned the world and changed America forever. Included here are a listing of local events planned for Sept. 11, the 10th anniversary of the attacks.
ATLANTIC CITY — The Sept. 11 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, along with the crash of Flight 93 in rural Pennsylvania, have long been described as events you always remember exactly where you were when you first heard the tragic news.
For many people, that involves a call from a friend or relative to turn on the news. For others it was a news flash on the radio or TV, and then they started making the calls.
For many people, it would set off days, and even weeks, of constant viewing of news reports.
Ten years after the event, it’s easy to forget that the Internet was still relatively new and there were no smart phones in our pockets. A stunned nation turned to traditional media to help sort out one of the most frightening and confusing days in U.S. history.
For Mike Richman and Diane Mitchell, of the Mike and Diane Morning Show on WAYV-FM 95.1, that meant many people were turning to them.
“We actually first heard when we got a call from a listener,” says Richman, in the WAYV studio with Mitchell after a recent morning show. “We weren’t all hooked up to the Internet like we are now,” he says, pointing to a bank of computer screens above the broadcast desk. “The caller asked if we knew what was going on at the World Trade Center. She said a plane had hit one of the towers. At that point I thought she meant a small plane. We didn’t have a clear picture.”
A television in that station’s conference room quickly became the main news feed as Mitchell and the show’s producer ran back and forth for reports.
“I guess it was about 20 minutes later that we finally mentioned it on the air,” says Richman. “I mean here we are in between a Christina Aguilera song and a Britney Spears song announcing this. But as the day wore on, we basically went to an all news format as things just got worse and worse and everything went to hell in a hand basket.”
One of the clearest memories for most people on 9-11 was the stunned disbelief and confusion that set in. The two morning show hosts would stay on the air until early afternoon trying to keep listeners up to date.
“There was just such an uncertainty as to exactly what we should do,” recalls Mitchell. “We were trying to tell people what was going on exactly as it was happening.”
In Atlantic City, that confusion was set against the backdrop of one of the most harmless things imaginable — the Miss America Pageant, which was still held in the resort in 2001. Reporters in the city to cover the pageant’s fluff and staged photo opportunities suddenly found themselves in impromptu press conferences with city officials.
In the initial wake of the attacks, no one knew how many planes had been hijacked or what potential targets were out there. However brief the fear, the city’s casino towers suddenly seemed vulnerable and possibly secondary targets nestled between New York and Philadelphia.
Then-Mayor James Whelan told reporters that the city was in contact with state and federal law enforcement and the threat to the city was low. There was even comfort from fighters jets taking off from the 177th Fighter Wing of the New Jersey Air National Guard at Atlantic City International Airport in Egg Harbor Township.
Before long, even the Miss America contestants were hunkered down in front of TV. That was true of most Americans.
“I remember we got a call that we should turn on the TV,” says Rabbi Aaron Krauss, of Beth El Synagogue, one of the organizers of an interfaith commemorative service to be held at the Margate synagogue this Sunday, Sept. 11, the anniversary of the attacks. “I just remember the horror of the moment, all of the lost lives. You couldn’t believe it could happen here. The tragedy of it was overwhelming.”
And it would change us forever.
“I think the hardest thing to remember is how innocent we were at the time,” says Richman of WAYV. “We have so much more street sense now. We’re much tougher. We can take a punch now. But it’s weird to think back at how naïve we were before 9-11.”
Atlantic City would also have its small moment in the history of the attacks thanks again to Miss America.
Immediately after the attacks, television entertainment ground to a halt as every station, from MTV to the Food Network, switched to 24-hour news feeds. It would stay that way for another 11 days until finally, a regular program went on the air — the pageant, hosted that year by Tony Danza and held under the tightest security Atlantic City had ever seen.
Radio returned to regular programming sooner than TV, but the decision wasn’t easy.
“I do remember how guilty you felt at first,” says Mitchell. “How could you try and be funny and entertaining in the wake of this?”
But perhaps the most stirring memory of the days after the attacks were the symbols of unity — firefighters raising a flag at Ground Zero or the thousands of U.S. flags flying from homes and lining highways around the nation. There was a general feeling of unity, especially in southern New Jersey.
“I think that, at least in this area, it has made people much more conscious of the differences in the cultures and people around us, and I think it has made us come together more,” says Kaleem Shabazz, local civic leader and another organizer of the Margate commemorative mass. “As a Muslim, I can say that I think people have been very supportive and encouraging and much more open with each other. I don’t know of any major incidents of intolerance in our area.”
“But I also think that we as a community have had a responsibility to get out and assure people, and to forcibly come out against extremism. I think that when people get to know each other, they realize that 99 percent of Muslims are like 99 percent of everyone else, with the same dreams and aspirations,” says Shabazz. “I know we can never get back to that sense of unity we had in the immediate days afterwards, but I think that if any good came out of it, it’s the sense that we are all in this world together.”
9-11 10th Anniversary Events
Here’s a partial list of 9-11 observances around the region scheduled for Sunday, Sept. 11:
9-11 Anniversary Ceremony
Anthony “Tony” Canale Training Center, 5033 English Creek Avenue, Egg Harbor Township, 11am. A portion of a steel beam salvaged from the World Trade Center rubble will be displayed and will feature local police, fire and EMS personnel in addition to representatives from New Jersey Task Force One, musical selections and color guards.
9-11 Memoial Dedication, 9:30am, at Jackson Ave. and The Boardwalk, the site of benches dedicated to the memory of John O’Neill and Victor Saracini, Atlantic City natives who died during the attacks. The event is precededed by a fire department run and bike ride starting at 9:05 am at Albany Ave. to honor victims of the attacks.
“September 11, 2001 – Never Forget”, a special program of commemoration of the events of that day will take place at 3pm at Beth El Synagogue, 500 N. Jerome Avenue in Margate NJ. More than 50 community organizations are co-sponsoring the 10th anniversary event.
Main Street Hammonton is organizing a special “Rise Up America” ceremony 1pm at Reagan Rock, at the corner of Central Avenue and Bellevue Avenue. The event will feature guest speakers, the Hammonton High School Marching Band, the St. Martin’s Choir of St. Mary of Mount Carmel Parish, dancers from Dance Magic and Paul Morris Dancexplosion, a flag ceremony by the Royal Rangers and more.
The city’s Annual Sept. 11 Ceremony will be held 1pm at Veterans Memorial Park, 5th and Wesley Ave. In the event of rain, the ceremony will be moved to the Tabernacle Auditorium across from Veterans Memorial Park.
The keynote address will be given by Ocean City Fire Chief, Joseph Foglio. The National Anthem will be sung by Cameron Ghanavati and Amazing Grace and God Bless America will be played by Jack Meehan on the bagpipes.
At 8am the 10th anniversary of 9/11 Memorial Ceremony will be held at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall located across the street from the Wildwoods Convention Center on Ocean Avenue in Wildwood. At 9am a moment of silence will be observed along the waters edge behind the Wildwoods Convention Center for all of the victims of 9/11.
Patriot’s Day Memorial Service
New Jersey Avenue and Miami Road in Wildwood Crest, adjacent to Sunset Lake. 5:30pm. Service to honor and remember those who perished in the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001. —MP
I had no idea 10 years ago that today I’d be part of an interfaith group, Bridge of Faith, which is at the helm of southern New Jersey’s biggest Sept. 11 commemoration event.
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