Friday, May 31, 2002
New York Television networks paused with victims' families and salvage workers Thursday to solemnly mark the cleanup's end at the near-empty lot where the World Trade Center towers stood until Sept. 11.
ABC, CBS, NBC and the cable news networks all interrupted regular programming to cover the short, mostly silent, ceremony.
Anchors Tom Brokaw and Peter Jennings, who helped the nation sort out the shock and horror immediately following the attacks, presided over another stage in the grieving process. Dan Rather, who was returning from a CBS affiliates' meeting in Las Vegas, was replaced on the air Thursday by John Roberts.
"This morning is a chance for all of us to think again about the magnitude of the attack, all the lives lost and all the lives disrupted in so many ways," Jennings said.
Absent from the coverage was videotape of the burning or collapsing towers, even though the 10:29 a.m. start of the ground zero ceremony marked the time of the second tower's implosion. Networks did show pictures of the mound of smoldering rubble to illustrate all the work that had been done since then.
Networks covered the ceremony without speeches by trying ï¿½ with varying levels of success ï¿½ to keep their own talking to a minimum.
"Today Ground Zero feels like a church," said CBS reporter Byron Pitts.
As cameras followed a truck removing the trade center's final supporting beam, Brokaw noted that "it was an attack not just on the World Trade Center, but on the fabric and the family of America."
Anchors noted how much had changed since Sept. 11, with CNN's Aaron Brown marveling at the different public attitudes toward police officers. Fox News Channel's Shepard Smith talked about how much hadn't changed.
"I think we proved to ourselves what a challenged nation can do," Smith said.
Screens flashed many of the day's still-shocking statistics. Of the 2,832 people who died at the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, the remains of only 1,102 have been recovered.
While Fox News Channel titled its coverage "A Final Tribute," it's not likely to be the last. TV networks are planning coverage for the first anniversary of the attacks, with ABC already announcing it will be on the air with a special report for a full day and evening.