Saturday, March 10, 2007

9/11 & Five Live’s Mayo show

(c) BBC

(Like many posts, this one was drafted, but took a while to be published in the blog.)

I remember sitting in the car park of the big Tesco store in Lisburn listening to the radio and waiting for someone to come back out with their shopping.

The radio was tuned into Five Live, the Simon Mayo show.

I can’t recall what they’d been talking about, but I remember Mayo cutting in to say they were getting reports of a plane crash in New York.

Trapped waiting in the car, I listened on for the next ten minutes as he started describing the pictures that were now coming into the small TV screen in his studio. He spoke of smoke billowing from the North Tower, of the hole in its side.

It was just after we got home and switched on the rolling news that saturated all the terrestrial channels that afternoon that the second plane hit, the South Tower this time, bringing talk of a terrorist attack to the fore.

And then with millions around the world I stood in front of the kitchen TV watching incredulously as the towers collapsed, and later as reports of the Pentagon explosion (later called as another plane) came through.

When asked in years to come where I was when I heard about 9/11, I’ll say that I was listening to Mayo on Five Live. I saw it on the radio.

Catching up on the daily Mayo podcasts from a couple of weeks ago, I caught his interview with William Rodriguez, a janitor at the Twin Towers. He was responsible for cleaning the stair wells in the south tower, a job that he normally started each morning at the top floor restaurant - where he got a free breakfast before starting his descent.

Arriving late to work, he was in the basement when the first plane hit. Rodriguez helped many people to safety, evacuating fellow staff, wheelchair-bound folk abandoned in the refuge areas, and using his master key to unlock doors and guide a fire crew upstairs.

He is quite possibly the last person to run out of his tower before it collapsed. On that day he lost hundreds of friends, colleagues and acquaintances.

Rodriguez questions the enquiries that followed 9/11. Why were so few people who escaped the towers interviewed by the enquiry teams?

While disagreeing with most of the wackier conspiracy theories, he questions the official version of the attack. The thuds he heard in the basement felt to him like an explosion going off to weaken the foundations. What caused the injuries to a colleague in the basement - someone who had been around the basement area when the first plane hit?

“I was a magician for thirty years ... It is very easy to do misdirection, to make you look into one place while you’re doing the magic with the other hand.” Inferring that in plain sight, the planes struck; out of sight, bombs exploded, “It’s just a big magic trick,” Rodriguez concludes. “It’s an illusion.”

Whatever his questions, and whatever the answers, it made chilling listening as I pieced his story together with my recollections from the car park in Lisburn.

Unfortunately I’ve posted too late for you to catch the interview at the Mayo programme’s website, or from the Daily Mayo podcast feed.


John Self said...

In a "Where Were You When...?" spirit, my own discovery of what happened on Sept 11 was rather more mundane. It was about 2pm on a glorious sunny day, and I had just taken an elderly client into my office for her appointment. I greeted her with some banality about what a beautiful day it was. She replied, "Yes. Not so nice for the people in New York." I smiled and nodded, thinking she must be barmy to offer such a non sequitur. Only when I had seen her and went to speak to my colleagues did I discover what was going on...

Unknown said...

I had just finished reading Bram Stoker's Dracula and was bored in my bedroom. I remember turning on Five Live and listening to Simon Mayo. He had only recently moved into that slot and had been getting a lot of bad feedback. I think his reporting of Sept 11 marked a turning point in listeners' impression of him as an extremely talented presenter.