The Sound Company at Ground Zero on 9/11

When the Twin Towers came down on September 11, 2001, one sound company was particularly affected: RSA Audio of Edgewood, NY, which had been providing audio for an 11-day dance festival called Evening Stars—On Stage at the Twin Towers, held at the base of the World Trade Center.
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The stage of Evening Stars—On Stage at the Twin Towers, as photographed September 5, 2001. Photo: © David Streich.

When the Twin Towers came down on September 11, 2001, millions around the world were affected, and the pro audio industry reacted. Hundreds of audio pros around the country donated their services to benefit concerts, but one sound company was affected directly by the events of 9/11: RSA Audio of Edgewood, NY, which had been providing audio for an 11-day dance festival called Evening Stars—On Stage at the Twin Towers, held at the base of the World Trade Center.

In the days after the terrorist attack, Joe Light, co-owner/vice president of RSA, told me in an interview for a Pro Sound News that thankfully no audio staff had been injured, but nonetheless, “We lost a full system’s worth of equipment—consoles, snakes, monitors, mics, stands, DATs, wireless and all the rest.”

Light acknowledged that in New York City, a sound system is more likely to be hit by thieves 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!’” 

“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. After the first plane hit and stuff started coming down, 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 half an hour earlier!”