Friday, September 9, 2011
9-11: In Memory of Peter Hanson
As far as I know I didn't know any of the people who died on the airplanes that day, but one was a regular listener to the noncommercial FM radio station where I have done radio for many years (WPKN). Here is the story of that day and a link to a memorial page about him:
I had been up all night writing the previous night and was sleeping (what else is new?) when the planes hit the WTC and my friend Lynne called around 10:30 a.m. and woke me and asked: "Are you watching the news?" And then she told me: "The World Trade Center is gone, the Pentagon has been bombed and there are other planes still in the air that they believe have been hijacked."
I thought she was joking, but I flipped on the local Connecticut TV station and the first thing I heard was the reporter saying he'd just spoken to a person that paid a cab several hundred dollars to drive a car full of people out of the city. Everyone thought the entire city was under attack and they just wanted to get back home.
I was scheduled to do my radio show at 2 p.m. and so I just got up and went to the station. We had no idea what to do but we just kept doing "rip and reads" from the AP and relaying things we heard online on CNN, ABC, etc. We're a small noncommercial station, so we had no reporters anywhere on such short notice. Instead, we just opened the phone lines and let people talk or give us bits of news.
A friend of mine, a good reporter named Ken Best, came and joined me on the air and together we took a lot of calls. Most of the calls were either updating us on what other stations were saying--remember, this was happening live and we were on the air live, there was no delay--and people were calling to sympathize, rant or whatever.
About four that afternoon a regular listener (a guy we call the "Trailer Guy" because he lives in a trailer in the woods and calls whenever I'm on the air) called and told us that his best friend, and a guy that was a regular listener to the station when he was in Connecticut (he grew up here but moved to Massachusetts), was on United Flight 175. His name was Peter Hanson. We took Trailer Guy's call on the air (again, live, no delay) and he told us that he had just received a call from Peter's distraught father. Peter had called his father from the air and said he knew what was happening, knew what had happened to the first plane (United 175 was the second plane that flew into the WTC--the South Tower) and that he was just calling to say, "I love you Dad, goodbye."(I learned later that his parents actually watched live on TV as the plane hit the tower.)
There was utter silence at our end. Suddenly the whole thing became a personal, hometown tragedy and it was right in the room with us. Ken and I were devastated. Or should I say, more devastated.
Peter had his wife and daughter with him and he was taking them on a business trip and then to Disneyland. He was 32. His daughter Christine was two-and-a-half years old and was the youngest victim of 9-11. His daughter was very excited to be going to see Mickey and Pluto. Peter and his wife and daughter died, no doubt, curled in each others arms.
You can read a letter and a memorial from Peter's mother here.
One other odd thing about that day, that has never left me, was that because so many of our neighbors in southern Connecticut commute to New York every day, there were literally hundreds of cars in train stations that were not returned to that night. The police set up security at all the train stations to be sure the cars were left alone. Families went to the train stations and waited for husbands and wives and children, many of whom never came home.
Even today in Manhattan, you will see fading little signs with the photos and names of victims, signs that were posted in the days after the attack. People looking for their loved ones, their friends.
In yesterday's posting I ran a photo of a memorial to 9-11 in Jersey City, New Jersey, across the Hudson from where the towers stood. It is made of a beam of the WTC and is decorated with things that people have left: flags, angels, etc. When you come across this memorial in person, and then look up and see the gap in the skyline, it just about takes you to your knees.
And yet Bin Laden still walks this earth. Let's hope not for long--there is a place in hell waiting for him.