Sportscaster Warner Wolf was on the air via telephone, describing how he was having a morning cup of coffee looking out of the window of his high-rise condo, when he saw an airplane crash into the World Trade Center.
I’m sure you remember exactly where you were when the first plane hit the tower. I was on my way to a radio station, listening to that station’s syndicated show “Imus in the Morning.”
Like those of us listening, Warner didn’t really know what to make of it. It appeared to be an intentional act, but he couldn’t quite believe it because it defied logic.
Ten years later, with all the facts we have about the events of 9/11, the tragedy has become part of us. Our sense of loss continues to weigh heavily, and when discussion occurs, we are united in our mourning. We are concerned about the safety of our troops around the world and for the security of our society.
A national gesture
Now is the time to begin preparing for the commemoration of the 10th anniversary of Sept. 11, 2001. It would be remarkable if, as a united body, radio stations from coast to coast could share a moment of reflection.
Imagine tens of thousands of radio stations sharing the same audio introduction, then silence, then an ecumenical prayer for our country. Last, we could ask people to turn on their car headlights for the remainder of the day.
If the heads of the major broadcast radio groups, plus those of satellite and online radio, got together and could agree on such a plan, no doubt others would join in. What a powerful experience we could create for our citizens.
I am not suggesting this for industry self-aggrandizement. I’m putting this concept out there because it’s the right thing to do to remind folks that, regardless of politics, we are all part of one steadfast, moral society — proud Americans who care about one another.
Regardless of whether anyone takes this national concept seriously, you owe it to your listeners to begin making your local commemoration plans now.
You’ll need plenty of time to come up with an approach that makes sense for your city, your format and your demo. You may even want to gather an advisory panel of listeners, city officials and local relatives of those who lost loved ones.
With a topic as sensitive as this, you’ll want plenty of input about how best to serve the public. Do you use short sound bites throughout the day with people remembering where they were and how they felt? Do you augment this with maybe a 30-minute special? Do you interview experts on the subject during your morning show that day?
There’s so much to look into that a program director might want to consider enlisting a project manager to assist in the initial research, tactical approach and execution.
It’s possible that your station or cluster may want to hold a special event at a public place.
Does your city have a 9/11 memorial? Should one be built? If you’re able to form strong relationships with city officials and civic leaders, could you help make that happen, or at least start raising funds for it to be built next year? Could you be helping to facilitate seminars or lectures in schools from those who were eyewitnesses?
For example, I have a friend who was in the hotel at ground zero when the first plane hit. His entire group was saved thanks to some quick thinking by his group leader. I know someone else who happened to be out of his office at the Pentagon for a meeting when the plane struck. He went to funerals for nearly six months and, as you might assume, has strong views on the subject. I was present when each addressed an informal but sizable group and their presentations were very moving.
If you’ve made it this far into my plea for participation, perhaps you’ll hear me out when I say that some sort of commemoration belongs on every station regardless of format. The natural reaction of many music programmers will be that it’s not right for music radio stations to be involved with something so heavy. The reasoning will be that commemoration of Sept. 11 will cause a drop in ratings. After all, one may say, this is truly for the all-news, talk stations and maybe the ever-patriotic sound of country radio.
I say they’re wrong. The commemoration of the 10th anniversary of Sept. 11, 2001, is for all American radio stations. It’s for good reason that we call our country the United States of America.
Mark Lapidus is president of Lapidus Media. Email [email protected].