Sunday, September 11, 2011

9/11: A Constant Reminder

"I woke up this morning to an empty sky" -Bruce Springsteen

An Emmy sits on our mantle. Not many people can call themselves an Emmy-winner. But I can.

That gold statue serves as a constant reminder... of an accomplishment. And of a tragedy.

I won my only Emmy for my work covering the first anniversary of September 11th. That statue is so bittersweet. It almost seems like there shouldn't have been awards that year.

There was a feeling of helplessness when the attacks hit, and the towers came down. I especially felt helpless because all I wanted to do was get into work. I couldn't at first because the city was on lockdown. There was a bigger feeling of helplessness from our inability to provide any information or comfort to the countless families whose loved ones were missing.

I remember our reporter standing there live at the Armory, interviewing relative after relative awaiting word. None came. All he could do was comfort them. Temporarily. Momentarily. And all we could do was watch through the screens in the control room and not loose our sh!t, and concentrate on the next shot to go to.

It seemed every waking hour, for that entire year, was about 9/11. The firsts. The first month. The first Christmas. The six month anniversary. The wars. Then summer, and the planning for the one year anniversary.

Leading up to the first anniversary was like opening an old wound. I remember pouring my heart into that special. Not for me. But for them. The victims. Their families.

Obviously, I didn't do it for any award. I did it because it was my job. And I did it because I - we - felt that somehow we were serving these people in some way. We were easing their pain however slightly by telling their stories.

That night, when we signed off at 11pm, we all went out. Everyone at the station. Talent, bosses, technical crew, producers. Everyone.

We got hammered. I got really hammered. We were blowing off steam... a year's worth of steam. There was so much work to do from the moment that first plane struck to the moment Seinfeld (Seinfeld of all things) rolled right after us on the one year anniversary.

We all took a deep breath. And finally exhaled. I don't remember much about that night. I remember a friend put me in a cab to send me home... from the East Side of Manhattan to New Jersey.

Then I remember collapsing into a heap in the bathroom of our apartment maybe 45 minutes later. Kicking and screaming and crying and punching. My wife (who was my fiance' then) came in. I had obviously woken her up because it was late at night/early in the morning.

The tears started flowing, fueled by the alcohol, and they just didn't stop. She came in to console me. I remember yelling, "I can't do this anymore." And "I shouldn't have taken on this project. I can't handle it."

Over the next several years, I earned the job of 9/11 producer at each station I worked. Despite my drunken pronouncement in the bathroom in the early morning hours of 9/12/02, it became my thing.

But I could never forget that first time. When all of those memories came rushing back. When I finally let go and let loose.

Ten years later, I still wish there was more I could have done to help those who lost someone. Something more than wall-to-wall coverage. Something more than producing an Emmy-winning show.

But I can't. Nothing I can say or do can take away their pain.

9/11 taught us about the strength and triumph of the human spirit in the face of unspeakable tragedy. A daily reminder of that sits on our mantle. It is a testament to them.

And that is why I'm proud of that Emmy. But I'd trade it in a heartbeat if it would bring them all back.


  1. I remember those first few days after the attacks working there... It was the hardest job I've EVER had to do. The helplessness was unbearable. You wanted to help but you couldn't give them what they wanted. Answers. We had none. Proud to have worked along side you.

  2. What a story...thank you so much for sharing your experience.


  3. Great story. It was a 3 tissue minimum read.

  4. what a great story thanks for sharing this story ..

  5. I love reading all the stories of 9/11 from all different points of prospective. Yours is truly bittersweet. I don't know if I could see that every day, much less do the memorial every year. Kudos to you.

  6. That made me tear up, and I rarely succumb to those pesky things. I can't imagine being in the middle having families look at me for an answer when there clearly isn't. I hope there are tributes every year, they lived through hell and back sharing THEIR story makes them feel heard and understood. I'm not sappy, I'm not going to lie I googled 9/11 stories and read until I couldn't see...





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