Thursday, September 8, 2011

FORUM: My Most Random 9/11 Memory

When the subways started running again at around 1 p.m. on September 11, 2001, and I was able to make my way back up to my apartment in Washington Heights, I immediately turned on NY1 and, along with my roomies Jess and Katrin, was glued to the TV for the rest of the day, night and the next few days. NY1’s coverage of the terrorist attacks and the aftermath was relentless and vital and nothing short of amazing. It was a harrowing day, but would have been much more difficult to endure without NY1’s efforts to keep us constantly informed. To this day, I am a loyal NY1 viewer and (I admit) fanboy, and though I watched the channel regularly before 9/11, it was that day that really sealed the deal.

But there was an odd moment, sometime during the evening broadcast, that Jess, Katrin and I have puzzled over for nearly ten years. By then, Lewis Dodley had taken over behind the anchor desk, his commanding presence and distinctive voice easing us into the unsettling night. At one point, they cut away to what I believe was a Rudy Giuliani press conference, as they had done many times throughout the day. But this time, as the press conference began, we were jolted by a single word that rang out, suddenly and inexplicably, in Lewis Dodley’s booming voice:


Wait... what? Forum? What forum? Who forum? Why forum? What the heck just happened? Was that an audio malfunction... or something more?

We didn’t know... but for pretty much the first time that day, we burst out laughing at the sheer absurdity of the moment. It provided some much-needed levity on a day when I had seen a plane crash into a skyscraper with my own eyes, and we reveled in it, pondered over it and tried to find hidden meaning in it for... well, pretty much the next ten years.
Which brings us to today. Jess and I, along with Rachel (my lady friend) and Joe (Jess’ husband), attended a 9/11 retrospective featuring members of the NY1 news team who covered the tragedy, including Pat Kiernan (who served as moderator), Kristen Shaughnessy, Annika Pergament, John Schiumo, Cheryl Wills, Steve Paulus, Bobby Cuza, Andrew Kirtzman... and of course, Lewis Dodley. The event, entitled “Bearing Witness: 9/11 Through the Eyes of NY1,” offered a panel discussion about the role of the media, and NY1 in particular, on 9/11, as well as an opportunity for them to share their own experiences, mindsets and insights. It was excellent, fascinating and emotional -- but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t geeking out pretty hard at seeing so many of my favorite NY1 personalities sitting there together. Hey, if I hadn’t, then the terrorists would’ve won, right?

Now, before the show (and indeed, over the past 10 years), we mused about how funny it would be to meet Lewis and tell him the “FORUM” story. Not that he would be able to shed any light on what the heck he was talking about at that moment... but at the very least, we figured he’d like to know that his audio slip single-handedly brought some laughter into our evening. But when the panel ended and the moment of truth was presented to us... well, we very nearly punked out! We were nervous! And maybe a little star-struck!

But guess what? In the end, we did it. We made our way to the front and Jess struck up the conversation with Lewis Dodley (who, I might add, is quite a jovial fellow in real life -- a vast difference from his no-nonsense TV persona, though his distinctive voice is still there). We introduced ourselves and basically told him the story as I have recounted it here. And... he got a huge kick out of it! The man laughed his ass off. Turns out he was expecting us to tell him some generic “your broadcast helped get us through the night” story... but our version was completely out of left field! We all had a good laugh and pondered over what it could have meant. Even a couple of NY1 producers overheard us and wondered whether they could dig into the archives to find the mystery clip -- a joke, of course, but how awesome would that be? Oh, and we also took a photo together:


For the record, Lewis said “FORUM” instead of “cheese,” which is why Jess is in hysterics. Somehow I held it together. It ruled.

And that, my friends, is the story of FORUM -- my most hilariously random, bizarre, and indeed, oddly important 9/11 memory. Maybe you had to be there. But regardless... thank you, Lewis, for providing that moment and this awesome epilogue. And thanks to the entire NY1 crew for everything you did that day and for being my #1 source of news (and a particularly integral part of my morning routine) every day since.


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