The Gig at Ground Zero - ProSoundNetwork.com

The Gig at Ground Zero

Sunday marks the 10th anniversary of 9/11. The tragic events of that day affected millions of Americans, but the Long Island-based sound reinforcement company, RSA Audio, particularly felt them, as it had a crew and audio system at the base of the World Trade Center when the planes hit. The following story originally ran in the October, 2001 issue of Pro Sound News.
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RSA Audio had a full PA system at the World Trade Center’s Evening Stars festival, shown here less than a week before the attack. Photo: David Streich/Mr. Snappy
Sunday marks the 10th anniversary of 9/11. The tragic events of that day affected millions of Americans, but the Long Island-based sound reinforcement company, RSA Audio, particularly felt them, as it had a crew and audio system at the base of the World Trade Center when the planes hit. The following story originally ran in the October, 2001 issue of Pro Sound News.

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NEW YORK CITY—Businesses across the New York area have been deeply affected by the attack on the World Trade Center. While high-profile sectors like the financial industry have taken centerstage in the nation’s concern, area sound reinforcement companies, too, have been dealing with the aftermath of the tragic events.

Some SR professionals have donated blood; others have been tracking down family, friends and acquaintances by phone, making sure that they’re safe. Joe Light, co-owner/vice president of RSA Audio (Edgewood, NY) spent much of that week on the phone as well—ordering components needed to replace the audio system he lost in the September 11 attack.

“We lost a full system’s worth of stuff—consoles, snakes, monitors, mics, stands, DATs, wireless and all the rest,” said Light, adding thankfully that no audio staff had been injured.

RSA had set up a full system on the World Trade Center Plaza on September 4, providing audio for an 11-day, free festival called Evening Stars—On Stage at the Twin Towers. The popular festival presented well-known dance companies.

Light acknowledged that, in Manhattan, a sound system is more likely to be harmed by theft than a terrorist attack: “Your instinct is to lock the door of the production trailer behind you, to make sure that things stay put. Well, now there are 110 stories on top of that production trailer. When I heard the first tower was hit, I figured all our stuff would be OK—the cables would be OK, and the firemen would spray our consoles with foam because, hey, it’s something electronic. The equipment would be wet and ruined. Then we saw the buildings come down on TV. Later, one of my guys said, ‘Think they can dig it out of the rubble?’ I looked at him and said, ‘Rubble? Look at what just came down on it.’”

The system was located directly between the towers as part of a full-sized stage with complete lighting, two generators (all provided by other vendors) and an attached production trailer.

While the system was destroyed, fortunately, the production staff survived. “My guys’ call was 11 a.m., so they weren’t there,” said Light. “But the production manager, production accountant, four stagehands and a runner all were.” The staffers on the scene all survived, with an individual account to add to the growing list of personal stories flooding out of New York City. “After the first plane hit and stuff started coming down,” Light recounts, “they got out of there. The production manager [who Light would only identify as ‘Tony’] went down to the subway—he was like the first person to get out of there because he wasn’t even in the building, remember; he was outside. He had blood on him because one of the stagehands got his ear cut, and he was dirty, so he went up to the tollbooth and told the attendant, “A plane hit the Twin Towers; the building’s on fire!’ And the attendant was like, ‘Sure, sure.’

“So he got on the train, covered with soot and dust and glass, but OK physically, and he started telling everyone on the subway how the World Trade Center just got hit by a plane. And they were all ‘Yeah, sure—you’re a crazy man.’ The train had been underground, coming in from Brooklyn, so no one there knew about it; it hadn’t ‘happened’ yet. So he went home, turned the TV on, and saw the building collapse—and he had been there just there half an hour earlier.”