Remembering September 11, 2001. My Experience In New York That Week, From Howard Stern’s Studio To Meeting Bill Clinton… 

Twenty-one Years On…

I was in New York on September 11, 2001 – until now I’ve never posted about that day…but, twenty+ years later, I shared what I experienced and gave credit to some of the people who were there with me.

I was Senior Vice President of Programming for E! Entertainment Television, as well as the Executive Producer of Howard Stern’s E! TV show.

In 1994, I worked with a great team that launched the show – capturing everything that happened on his radio show and airing it as a TV show: we installed 7 robotic cameras in his radio studio – a studio that, at that time was shared with the other DJ’s at the station.

That radio studio at the time was so small that, whenever Howard had a band in, the drummer had to set up in the hallway!

We built a small production studio in a closet – thanks to the technical wizardry and leadership of Bob Baskerville to make that happen..

As the show, and E! both grew, we built Howard a brand new radio studio that also outfitted with TV cameras as well.

Howard was a consummate professional to work with, as was his Producer Gary Dell-Abate, Robin Quivers and Fred Norris as well.

This is a picture of me from the air check I have of that entire day. On the morning of September 11 2001, Howard brought me into the studio at around 8:15a ET – he gave me a chance to promote my wife’s new syndicated dating show, “elimiDATE.”

I walked out of the studio around 8:35a, excited to call my wife a few hours later so she could hear it – she was in Seattle for “elimiDATE” filming.

Moments later, Scott The Engineer came into our control room on the way to Howard’s studio with this comment:

“A small plane hit the World Trade Center.”

Moments later Howard interrupted his show to report the same thing on the air – and for the next 6+ hours, Howard stayed on the radio live as the horrific events of that day unfolded.

Since Manhattan was locked down, for the rest of that week, the E! team worked with Gary and his available team to put Howard’s radio show on the air every day. Bravo to Gary for showing his true leadership skills in handling such a difficult time.

Howard’s listeners needed him to talk about the unfolding events in the city.

On that first night, as the city was struggling to comprehend the horrific events of that day, I stood on 5th avenue and looked south: it was obscured with dust, sitting stagnant in the air. The city was in shock.

E’s sister station was the style network. There were many style employees in town to cover Fashion Week, and E!’s head of Marketing, Stephen Croncota was there overseeing it.

Stephen showed incredible leadership as he organized a plan to find a way to get buses to the hotel to begin taking the employees cross country back to Los Angeles.

There were others there in “leadership” roles as well – but they didn’t show any of it. Stephen did – a consummate professional under the most trying of times – and I wanted to thank him again for his role over those next few days.

By that Friday, we had gotten all E! and style employees out of the city. I was the last one in town, and after we finished with Howard’s radio show, the New York based staff all went home.

These Are My Photos From That Day…

I left the studio in mid-town and began walking south, a brown haze still in the air. Suddenly a mass of people were running toward me, and one person shouted: “There’s a bomb!” as he raced by.

It wasn’t true, but that was the level of anxiety and confusion that was still pervasive in the city.

I kept heading south, ultimately walking down to Union Square on E. 14th street. These are my photos from that day, which I have never shared before. This is what I experienced in the next hour:

Butcher block paper was laid out everywhere on the ground, being signed by countless people, messages paying homage to those who lost their lives, and mourning those still missing…

It was there the police had blocked off streets south toward the site of the attack. I walked along 14th, going west when I saw one street open.

A mass of people were slowly moving through the street, clearly following a single person in the middle of the crowd.

Cheers were coming from the crowd, as well as people looking down from the many apartment buildings that lined the narrow street.

I couldn’t tell who it was at first, but the ongoing cheers around a single figure was mesmerizing. I called my wife, now back in Los Angeles after her own harrowing post-9/11 staff bus trip from Seattle, and held the phone up so she could hear the crowd.

As they cheered again, I looked to my left, and standing just a few feet away from was Chelsea Clinton.

She was watching her father, the former President of the United States, walking with the crowd…he was there to offer solace.

I watched for several minutes as we slowly moved south along this street, which had been blocked off to all traffic. Suddenly I heard a police siren blare loudly.

A screaming police car sped toward us on the street, and everyone quickly backed up to clear the street. I found myself pressed against a parked car, tightly wedged in among the crowd.

Suddenly, pressed up against me, surrounded by two Secret Service agents, was Bill Clinton.

After the car passed, he stepped back, shook my hand, said a few words and moved on to others in the crowd.

I kept watching as he spoke to hundreds of people, offering solace…I will never forget that moment, and how healing his appearance had been.

As I said, I’ve never shared these photos, and I do not like looking at any of the destruction from that day…but over twenty years, I have thought about the events at that time, and those who stepped up at a crucial time.

The following year, Bruce Springsteen released his brilliant album called “The Rising”, which looked at 9/11 and the impact it had on our country and the world. 

If you haven’t heard it, it’s powerful, difficult at times, and also inspiring in a healing way.

You can hear the title track and more about the album here:

I know that many experienced this tragedy up close, and many lost loved ones as well. It changed the course of our country’s history forever…now 21 years later, sad to see that some of our own fellow citizens have tried overthrow our government with a terrorist attack, and many of us shockingly think it was justified…

Categories: Memoirs, New York

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

15 replies

  1. Thanks for sharing these photos, John. I remember my husband was at that moment flying from Gatwick to Cleveland. He never made it to Cleveland as the plane was diverted to St. John’s, and I didn’t see him for a week. Sam told me the Red Cross and the staff of The Battery Hotel in St. John’s did a fantastic job of looking after all the hundreds of passengers.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Hi John, I remember this from last year, but it impacted me just as much this year. I remember one of our partners coming into the general office area and telling us all to come to the board room as a small plane had flown into the twin towers. I remember watching it in complete silence. Everyone was shocked. Later that evening, I remember scenes from this event playing on every TV screen at my gym. Such a surreal time, even here.


  3. First off, I occasionally watched Howard Stern back in the day. I did not know until now that you were associated with the show. That speaks volumes about your modesty. Certainly, I’m much more familiar with your wife’s role in the Kelly Clarkson show.

    My first memory of 9/11 was seeing the images on the television and immediately thinking of my 2nd-grade students, knowing that many of them would come to school having seen the same video. It was only a handful of times when I didn’t know what to do as a teacher. Typically, with older elementary students (I taught 5th and 6th grade for many years), I would talk to them about world events. What could I say to reassure 2nd-graders when I didn’t know what would happen? My first thought was to conduct business as usual, but that was ridiculous. As soon as the kids began arriving, it was all that they wanted to talk about. Obviously, too much to that could be traumatizing as well. I’ve often replayed that school day in my head and asked myself if I would have done anything differently. My answer is usually, “I don’t know.” It was one of the most challenging days of my career, and I can only imagine what it was like for those much closer to the scene.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. John
    This was very powerful. Thank you for sharing your personal journey.
    John S

    Liked by 1 person

  5. John, this was a very moving post. Thank you for sharing.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Wow. Incredible that you were there that terrible day. I remember being at work in Seattle, and hearing of the events, as we all huddled around our computers trying to comprehend what was happening. Complete shock. I can also imagine the comfort of seeing the former president there among the crowds. Thanks for sharing your experience.


  7. loved that you shared this and the pictures made me cry to remember that day that I will never forget.

    Liked by 1 person


  1. Lisa Marie’s Week In Review: 9/5/22 — 9/11/22 | Through the Shattered Lens

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