9-11 coverage saturates networks

Television will be forever linked to the events of Sept. 11, 2001. Millions of Americans and billions around the globe first learned of the hateful attacks via television. When people telephoned their friends and family that terrible morning, the first words they uttered were, "Turn on the TV!"

But even while opening a window on the unfolding hell taking place in New York, Washington, D.C., and Shanksville, Pa., the medium was already turning Sept. 11 into something else. With constant repetition, the unthinkable image of mass murder was reduced to a news logo. Sheer horror became stock footage. The worst day in modern American history had become mere "television."

So it's no wonder that television's commemoration of the first anniversary of the attacks provokes somewhat paradoxical reactions. On one hand it's entirely fitting that the networks recall this dark day. But are the news divisions commemorating history or celebrating their finest hours of continuous coverage?

Here are a few of tonight's commemorative programs: Scott Pelley interviews President George W. Bush on "60 Minutes II" (7 p.m., CBS). The president discusses his own reaction to the attacks and reports of threats on Air Force One. Vice President Dick Cheney is also interviewed.

"Portraits of Grief" (7 p.m., Discovery) presents 22 moving tributes to the fallen of September 11. The profiles include snapshots, home movies, video footage and heart-breaking testimonials from friends, spouses and family members about a 48-year-old broker who drove his wife crazy with his loud guitar; a quiet trader who loved the racetrack; an incurable romantic and beach bum; a Bangladeshi immigrant who gave his children a thirst for education; a member of a gospel choir and many more.

An eclectic ensemble of musical performers reflect on the day and celebrate American patriotism in a "Concert for America" (8 p.m., NBC, taped Monday in Washington, D.C.,). Performers include Aretha Franklin, Placido Domingo, Gloria Estefan, Al Green, Alan Jackson, Renee Fleming, Chris Isaak, India.Arie and many more. The president and the first lady have been invited.

The New Jersey Symphony will perform Verdi's Requiem (9 p.m., PBS, check local listings) from Liberty State Park, located across the Hudson River from Lower Manhattan. The concert will be taped live, beginning at sunset and continue as the light fades over Ground Zero.

Tonight's other highlights

ABC News (6 p.m., ABC) devotes four hours to recalling Sept. 11.

Scheduled on "Dateline" special (7 p.m. NBC): an interview with air-traffic controllers.

Fox News Channel correspondents look back at "The Day America Changed" (7 p.m., Fox).

Survivors, clergy and writers discuss how Sept. 11 affected their relationship with the divine on the rebroadcast of the intelligent documentary "Faith and Doubt at Ground Zero" (7 p.m., PBS).

Former New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani and his deputies recall the terror attack on the repeat documentary "In Memoriam: New York City, 9/11/01" (7 p.m., HBO).

On a lighter note, Frankie Muniz, Kevin Bacon and Diane Lane star in the heartwarming 2000 drama "My Dog Skip" (7 p.m., WB, TV-PG), based on writer Willie Morris's recollections about his first best friend. Note: This might be pre-empted for September 11 coverage.

Robert De Niro hosts a repeat broadcast of "9/11" (8 p.m., CBS), a documentary made by French filmmakers who happened to be making a film about New York City firefighters at the time of the attacks.

Late night

All are new ...Jay Leno hosts Sen. John McCain and James Woods on "The Tonight Show" (10:35 p.m., NBC) ... Sarah Vowell and Joan Osbourne are scheduled on "Late Night with Conan O'Brien" (11:35 a.m., NBC).


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