9/11

Kristen Shaughnessy: I was covering primary day [in Brooklyn]. We were short-staffed because everybody was working at night. So we had wired an entire school building, the two of us, and they said a plane had went into the towers. And we thought it was joke. Because we just pulled a hundred or two hundred feet of cable and we were like, 'There’s no way you want us to take all this cable out and go…' There was a group of firefighters in a fire truck who were going over there and they had shut down the Manhattan bridge. But I had worked with those guys a bunch, so they said, 'Follow us.’ So we followed them. We lost them around City Hall, a little bit before that. Once we lost the fire truck we had to stop, because you just couldn’t go anywhere. So the truck parked near City Hall and then I ran over to the towers. I talked to one of the chiefs and he had this look in his eyes that was just — you don’t ever really see on a scene. But he was like, 'Kristin, we don’t know what’s going to happen here so you just need to get back.' So I ran and got the nearest pay phone, which isn’t there anymore. I think it got blown out by the explosion. Like when the second tower came down, because it was close to that. It was right on the corner. And then I went live with Pat [Kiernan]. We had pagers, I think, cellphones didn’t work if we had cellphones.  

So I was on a pay phone, I was talking to Pat, and then the tower started coming down. And you started getting hit with debris because it’s so tall. I’m thinking in my head that it couldn’t possibly reach me, like I’m a block away. Well, of course it can, because it’s a huge building and it’s coming down. And in my head I was like, 'I’ve got to run.' And I just dropped the phone. There was an FBI agent there and he said 'Kristin, you have to run.' We had been chatting for a little bit. We were like the only ones on the street at that point…He was running too, and that’s when I knew it was bad. So then I ran to the East Side, lost my shoes. I wasn’t wearing shoes. And then it was sort of a blur. When I got back to the station, we went live about my experience. We just went live for the next two months, it felt like. It felt like you slept here and there and we just kept reporting. 

 

I actually said on the air thatwas no longer reporting as an employee of NY1, I am just telling you the story as an eyewitness.
—John Schiumo

 

John Schiumo: I’m a native New Yorker, born and raised here, I have friends who died on 9/11. I was one of the first reporters there. We were already downtown for primary day. I ran from the falling debris. I had never run for my life before that morning. So the story was personal. I actually said on the air that I was no longer reporting as an employee of NY1, I am just telling you the story as an eyewitness. And I didn’t have to say that, but it kind of freed me up to be able to do whatever it is I had to do. Whatever that was, reporting with emotion, or whatever, I didn’t feel I wanted to be constrained. I wasn’t planning on saying it. It just came out. I spent every day down there for about two months. It was a tragic moment, and reporting with emotion was totally appropriate, in my opinion. You obviously don’t want to break down and start crying on the air. But it’s also hard to feel sorry for yourself, when you have survived all this tragedy. So many people had it so much worse than we did. For me, there was no sort of pity—'Look at me, look at how hard it is for me to stand here and tell stories'—when the people in the stories are going through a lot worse. When they are looking for loved ones in a pit.

Matt Besterman: I spent 18 months in our World Trade Center unit, and I think that's probably the most important work I will ever do as a journalist. I got to meet and talk to a lot of those 'victims' families' you saw on TV—ordinary New Yorkers who found themselves a part of, basically, the worst thing that has ever happened to America.

Roma Torre: I would have been in the office at nine o' clock because that's when I arrive. But because it was a primary election day, and I was covering politics at the time, they told me to come in at two o'clock on September 11th. I was at home, and my daughter had just started kindergarten. My husband ran in and said, 'Turn to CNN!' I heard the woman who replaced me at the anchor desk speaking on CNN and that's because CNN's antenna was knocked out because they were on top of the World Trade Center. NY1's was on top of the Empire State Building. For a while, we were the only game in town. CNN was putting us on their air because they had no means of transmission. I got dressed so fast and jumped in the car and started driving, which was kind of foolish because I didn't have a game plan. Of course, from Jersey, all roads were closed getting into the city. I did a u-turn in Route 46 and decided to go North and went to Tarrytown and parked the car because I heard on the radio that Metro North was running. When I got to Grand Central Terminal, I miraculously found a cab and got one block until firefighters stopped the cab to ask if he could please let them in to take reinforcements to the tower. I was like, 'Of course!' So I walked to the west side. I really didn't get into the office until about seven or eight o' clock that night and I set out from my house at 10 a.m. 

When I got to work—I don't think I went on the air that day—they had it covered. But I had to be in at 5 a.m. the next day, and we all put in twelve-hour shifts. I stayed on the air two whole weeks, commercial free, and the women were exchanging jackets because we didn't have enough clothes to wear. We didn't want to look like we were wearing the same outfits three or four day in a row, so we began mixing and matching with each other. It was gratifying to be able to be the only ones broadcasting for a while. I started getting emails from people I knew from college and from high school who lived in various parts of the country because NY1 was being aired all around the country.

Lewis Dodley: 9/11 happened just days after I got married so there is a constant reminder of the yin and yang of life. That day there was no way to get to work so I had to walk...from the middle of Queens! When I got there, the energy and focus was like nothing I'd seen before in a newsroom and was not seen again until Sandy hit. In both cases, you could see how personal it was to everybody in the newsroom. I have been in the news business for 36 years and I had never seen that kind of teamwork and compassion in reporting. 

 

I have been in the news business for 36 years and I had never seen that kind of teamwork and compassion in reporting.
—Lewis Dodley

 

Budd Mishkin: I was asked to do a bunch of essay stories, like longform essay stories [about the aftermath of 9/11]. I did a package on John Perry, who was this police officer who actually resigned from the police force to become a lawyer, in order take a law job — on the day of 9/11. He actually gave his badge to one of the police officers at One Police Plaza. Then saw one of the planes hit, took his badge back, and ran to the towers. He ran in and died. We did a story about him and his family. He was a remarkable police officer.

John Schiumo: After 9/11, we launched and I hosted what was called “New York Tonight.” That was an all 9/11 show. I hosted that from November 2001 to July 2005. It was basically four years of 9/11. It will never be more meaningful than those years. I was covering a story that affected my city, my friends and me. It affected everyone. For a live hour at night, NY1 was not really a place that people tuned in.

They watch in the morning, they get their weather, watch ten minutes, and then they are out the door. That is how the station is designed; It’s not necessarily important viewing for a whole hour. And that wasn’t the case after 9/11. People would sit down and watch. It was important stuff. We had people in many roles come through the program: Senators, the Mayor, the Police Commissioner, the Fire Commissioner,the designers. Eventually, we transitioned into what should be built at the site. So we started having all the people that were stakeholders coming in.

Matt Besterman: There's one moment I remember very clearly. When "New York Tonight" was devoted entirely to 9/11, and I was its producer, we used to do a 'family roundtable' each month — we'd invite maybe 8 or 10 family members into the studio, and spend an entire hour's show talking to them about their concerns, hopes, fears, difficulties. One of these roundtables, we pre-taped early in the afternoon. I was a smoker then, so after the taping I went downstairs for a cigarette. As I'm standing outside the building on Tenth Avenue, out comes one of these family members—a retired firefighter who'd spent months combing the wreckage of the World Trade Center where his son, also a firefighter, was killed. He sees me and—in a thick Irish accent—proceeds to tell me all the reasons I should quit smoking: how he'd seen guys in their fifties die of heart attacks, all that sort of thing. And then he gave me a hug— and this was a huge 6-foot-plus guy, so he practically smothered me—and walked away. I'd like to say I quit smoking that day, but it took me a few more years.

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