Don Roy King is an Emmy-winning producer and director and the current director of “Saturday Night Live.”
On 9/11, he was the director of CBS’s “The Early Show.” This is an account of that morning, in his words.
“It was September 11th, 2001, and I was nearing the end of my 20-first year directing live, network news.
“‘Stand by, guys,’ our producer yelled from the back row of the control room. ‘It looks like we’ll have to update for the west coast.’
“I hated that phrase. It meant that breaking news had made something in our morning broadcast dated and we’d have to change it for the show’s repeat in other time zones.
“The show originated from the GM building on Fifth Avenue, and we had several cameras mounted on nearby high rises.
“One of them was already focused on the fiery gape in the North Tower of the World Trade centre.
“‘Some idiot private pilot got disoriented,’ I thought, ‘and screwed up my morning.’
“We interrupted our ongoing segment, put that first picture of the building on the air across the country, and started to search for explanations.
“Bryant Gumbel was our anchor.
“In minutes, [we had him] interviewing an eyewitness on the phone [a Soho waiter, whose call-in was followed by one from a doorman at the now-destroyed Marriott World Trade centre, and then by one from a female eyewitness on the scene].
“I kept switching between the two roof cameras that had views of the damage. Soon, I was able to include pictures from a local news traffic helicopter.
“Suddenly, the eyewitness [on the phone] screamed, “Oh, my God, there’s another plane!”
“The camera on the air at that moment had a wide angle of both buildings as a black form glided in from the right, on its way to changing our world forever.
“For years, I had described a director’s job as a combination of symphony conductor and air traffic controller. ‘You know there will be some sour notes; you just don’t want any planes to crash.’
“Suddenly, my glib metaphor had become terrifyingly prophetic.
“Some memories are cloudy now.
“I don’t recall exactly when we reported that the Pentagon had also been hit, or that another plane had gone down in Pennsylvania.
“I’m not sure exactly when Dan Rather and the Special Events Unit of CBS News took over the coverage.
“But I do know that my mundane, mid-morning plans seemed suddenly less than trivial. They’ve remained that way since.”
Below, video of the broadcast King directed. The live shot of the second plane to hit the World Trade centre appears at the outset of the second video.
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