I was on my way to the psych hospital for work when the first plane hit. I had switched from my normal NPR to a local station here in Greenville, SC, and I clearly remember the first report followed by the DJ saying that it had to be either a joke or a small plane, as others have said. I switched to NPR to see if it was real, but was pulling into the parking lot and was running late (as usual).
The patient at the hospital at the time was a minor, a boy who was chronologically 13 and mentally about 5. I headed in to do the community meeting on the unit. I opened the door and all the kids and staff were huddled around the TV in the day room. I remember thinking “Crap, late again and this time I’m going to have to interpret a video!” I remember the looks on their faces. I remember how kids that would shy away from even catching a staff person’s eye under normal circumstances were sitting there, clinging to other kids, to staff members, to each other. And I remember my client waving me over and asking me why the TV keeps showing the same movie over and over again…
I remember when the second plane hit because we were watching the TV. Immediately looks were exchanged among the staff and you could see the question hanging in the air…”Do we turn this off?” Thankfully they didn’t, and when the kids asked questions the staff members were open and honest with them. They even came to enlist my help to ask my client if he understood what was going on. He had some questions that one would expect from a very young child: “Why did the plane hit the building?” “Why did the pilot not pay attention and fly right?” But the one that I can still see in my mind’s eye when I think of 9-11 was the one that no one expected from him: “Where will they crash next? Here?”
I was still living with the ex then, and I don’t think our TV was turned off for the next few weeks. It was always on either what I call the Shouting Channel (FoxNews) or the Green Channel (CNN). I didn’t switch away from NPR to any other station on the radio for a long, long time.