Street Smart Chicago

News hits the fan: Notes from a broadcast journalist

Essays & Commentary Add comments

By Nina Metz

Nina Metz is a theater critic for Newcity and produces “E*TRADE On Air,” a nationally syndicated radio show.

It’s ten minutes before we go on the air, and Jonathan Hoenig, the co-host of our show, bolts out of the studio and says, “A plane just hit the World Trade Center.” We all scramble to the wires. Then we see the video, smoke billowing from the top floors of one of the towers. Jesus.

Thirty seconds before our show begins, I talk to my hosts through their headphones, “Guys, let’s start off with the latest on this story, then we’ll move on.” The sounder hits and Jon and Tom Hudson are on the air. They’ve got one eye on their computer screens, scanning the wires, one eye on the TV monitor in the studio. Another plane hits the Twin Towers. What the hell is going on? Then, oh my God, please tell me that didn’t just happen, one of the towers collapses completely. Gone. I feel a disturbing mix of horror and excitement. Then everything happens in a tumble, Tom and Jon describing the events in a stunned reverence: a third plane hits the Pentagon, the remaining tower of the World Trade Center falls to the ground, a fourth plane crashes near Pittsburgh. Jesus. A friend of mine here in Chicago e-mails me this stream of consciousness, “just threw up. and fighting tears. unbelievable. am going to get shitfaced soon. motherfuckers.”

People in Chicago are definitely starting to get freaked out: the Sears Tower, all of the local trading floors and much of downtown is evacuated. We were supposed to talk about the Hewlett-Packard/Compaq merger today. We were supposed to talk about Alan Greenspan’s affair with author Ayn Rand today. But after what we’ve just seen, there’s only one thing to talk about. It’s too surreal. Tom and Jon talk about the impact this could have on our already precarious economy and stock market. I feed the guys updates through their headsets, a prickly heat spreading across my skin. We finish the broadcast and it’s only 10am, a whole day ahead of us. More breaking news… and it only gets worse. As one Chicago-based trader tells me, “Hold onto your pants.” Hold on, indeed.

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.