Saturday, September 10, 2011


I remember my first time in New York City, in 1982.  It was a high school orchestra trip to Lincoln Center to hear a matinee performance of the New York Philharmonic.  As our tour bus crept through the jammed streets we slowly passed by two identical buildings, so massive that I nearly strained my neck trying in vain to look up to take in their full height.  I remember being amazed, and I vowed that one day I would return to view the expanse of the Big Apple from the towers' upper floors.

I remember waking up on the morning of September 11, 2001.  I had a hardcore gym habit then, so I normally got out of bed around 5:30 to workout before I headed in to do my midday show.  For some reason, on this Tuesday, I decided to skip my workout and sleep in a little longer.  I lay in bed for 15 minutes or so, but I couldn't get back to sleep, so I turned on CNN.  I remember smoke, flames, and not believing my eyes. 

I remember being riveted to the TV and watching in horror as the second plane hit.  Jolted by the realization that they probably needed all hands on deck at the station, I rushed to shower and dress so I could get to work early.  As I was getting ready Steve walked into the bedroom with a look of gloom and announced, "One of the towers just collapsed."  I would never have the opportunity to climb to the top of those towers after all, as I had vowed nearly 20 years earlier, but that was by far the least of my worries.  I remember my heart sinking.

I remember my Muni ride to work, the headphones on my tiny radio blocking out the noise around me.  Only there was no noise around me -- the other passengers on the bus were stunned silent.  I was glued to KCBS, the local news station, which was now simulcasting its sister station from New York, WINS.  Every minute or two the jarring music used to announce breaking news made my heart beat faster.  Bulletin after bulletin, each bit of information more excruciating to hear than the last.  The first reports came of people jumping from the upper floors of the Twin Towers to escape the flames.  I remember desperately fighting back tears.

I remember arriving at Z95.7 to complete chaos as everyone struggled to keep up with the deluge of information, trying to sort fact from fiction.  Gene & Julie, our morning team, were making a valiant effort to try to make sense of it all for our listeners -- while struggling to make sense of it themselves.  I walked into the on-air studio and Julie asked me, "Can you believe what's happening to our country?"  I remember being speechless.

I remember going on the air at 10am, my control board littered with whatever scraps of paper I could grab to jot down information that was now flooding into the studio.  The airports were closing.  The Golden Gate Bridge, a potential target for the terrorists, was also closing.  Government buildings were shutting down and sending employees home early.  Somehow I got through those five hours in one piece.  I remember feeling completely drained at the end.

I remember my Muni ride back across town to get home, once again glued to KCBS.  Downtown San Francisco was a ghost town because all of the offices had closed, as its Financial District was also feared to be a target.  For the entirety of my ride home, during what would normally be a busy rush hour, I was the sole passenger on my bus.  I remember feeling really unsettled by that.

I remember being on the air the next day, fielding phone calls from listeners.  They were confused, afraid, angry.  But I most remember one particular phone call from a college student who was being harassed on campus simply because she was a Muslim, her tormentors operating under the twisted logic that all Muslims were terrorists.  I remember the pain in her voice, and the anger I felt on her behalf.

I remember going home that day, turning on CNN -- unable to turn away from the horrific video that seemed as if it were on an endless loop.  I had USA Today spread out on the coffee table, reading about the lives of the victims that had been identified thus far.  I was on the couch sobbing inconsolably as Steve arrived home from work that evening.  I remember him closing the newspaper and turning off the TV.

I remember how, in the ensuing days, so many Americans came together to do what they could to help.  Local blood donation centers were so crowded that people had to be turned away.  A handful of us from "the Z" went to Oakland City Center to hand out small American flags, and the line stretched down the block.  I remember feeling a glimmer of hope amidst the tragedy, and that hope is what keeps us going ten years later.

Always hold onto that hope.  And always remember.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Milestones and memories: The final chapter

Our bellies egregiously full of grilled stickies a la mode, Steve & I piled in the car to leave Happy Valley and continue on my graduation trip through Pennsylvania.  Next stop: Lewisburg, a little over an hour away from State College, to reconnect with two couples with whom we've been longtime friends but hadn't seen in forever.

First we stopped at Mike & Cara's house. You know those friends who, although it's been eons since you've been together, you can pick up your easy conversation like you just saw each other yesterday?  That's the way it was with us -- so cool to hang with smart, funny, truly good people!  (And their two cats, which made us miss our kitties back home.) The four of us moved on to to a restaurant where Mark & Mary Anne joined the festivities.  M&M once owned the radio station where Mike, Steve & I worked in the early '90s, and we still have a business relationship with them today.  After a blast over drinks and some surprisingly good fish & chips -- and glaring looks from the restaurant staff who were annoyed that we had lingered so long -- we parted ways with M&C and set out into the countryside to spend the night at M&M's home -- a 1790 farmhouse that they've lovingly restored into a real showplace.

Imagine the coziest, homiest bed-and-breakfast you can, with plush, comfy furnishings, piles of pillows, and impeccably chosen antiques all around. A log home surrounded by serene woods made greener and lusher with the recent rainfall.  Paradise, right?  Yes, Mark & Mary Anne live in their own Pennsylvania paradise.  Oh, did I mention the tricked-out gourmet kitchen?  My Food Network fantasy come to life!  The four of us enjoyed some more beverages, reminisced, and engaged in some passionate but civilized political debate.  Yes, Steve & I do know that conservatives exist --  we just don't run into many in San Francisco!

It was back to Steve's parents' house near Philly the next day, taking the backroads rather than the busy turnpike.  There we bonded with our niece Carrie and her adorable 15-month-old daughter Maddy, who we were meeting for the first time. Gary & Cindy (Carrie's parents), who had been with us at commencement, brought pizzas and we sat out in the carport and chatted.  At one point Maddy (who I had been warned was clinging to Mommy and might not warm up to anyone else) reached out from Carrie's lap and came right over to me!  Just as I was turning her to face forward so Steve could get a picture, she reached back for Mommy.  So despite a lack of photographic evidence, I proved that I'm capable of handling a small child for a grand total of three seconds, which for me is quite the accomplishment.

On the road again the next morning for our final stop, just what the doctor ordered to conclude our whirlwind tour.  We drove to the Jersey Shore for some long-overdue beach time, thanks to Steve's sister Kathy's generous offer for us to crash at their rental house a block from the beach.  It's an annual trip for Kathy, her husband Mike, and their daughters Kelly & Katie (and now their husbands, Derek & Jake respectively), and since it coincided with my graduation they invited us to join them.  After a rain-shortened stay on the sand on Day One we returned to the house to eat, drink, catch up, eat some more, drink some more, drink some more... well, you get the idea.  Kelly & Derek are expecting a baby in January, and because she was still so early in her pregnancy they were jokingly referring to the baby as The Sea Monkey.  (We found out the following week that it's a boy Sea Monkey!)  That evening was spent sitting outside the house, chowing down on some fine Jersey Italian food and watching the Phillies game on the TV that had been turned to face out the window.  Considering how little actual summer weather we get in San Francisco, even the sunburn and mosquito bites felt good to me.  Steve & I had only half a day left before we had to head back to Philly Airport, but we made the most of it on a gloriously sunny day at the beach.  Water temperature: 68 degrees -- considerably warmer than the 50 degree Pacific waters a few blocks from where we live.

All too soon it was time to pack up for the flight back west.  This trip was a shining example of quality over quantity... we didn't get to stay in any one place nearly as long as we or our hosts would've liked, but we made every moment that we had count.  There are so many people who were so gracious, accommodating, generous, helpful, supportive, and just all-out amazing to me, not only during the trip but over the course of the last year-and-a-half that it took me to complete my degree.  I can't thank you enough for all that you've done for me.

Now?  Bring on the next milestone..