Rare Interview With Now Senator Joe Griffo, on Sept. 11th in NYC During 911 Attack
Long before Joe Griffo was a New York State Senator, he was Mayor of Rome, NY and during the September 11th attack on the World Trade Center, he was in New York City on city business.
"We were there for a bonding meeting for the city," Griffo told WIBX's Bill Keeler on Friday. Griffo said he went to a Yankees-Red Sox game the night before, but it was rained out. He said he was walking on New York City streets the next morning after leaving his hotel when he saw the smoke from the 1st tower collapsing.
Meanwhile, long before I was the morning host on WIBX, I was a rock morning host on Rock 107 radio, and on September 11th, we were able to get an interview with Griffo in the afternoon, from the abandoned streets of New York City.
Our show normally lasted from 6 until 10 a.m., but on that day at about 8:46 in the morning, we saw the first plane fly into the World Trade Center Tower. At first, we thought it was a terrible mistake that possibly a small plane had lost its way and mistakenly crashed into the tower; but, we would soon come to the conclusion that America was under attack. Our show would ultimately stay on the air into the evening hours.
The program immediately changed format and morphed into a news program where we took phone calls, played audio from tv stations and networks around the country, and network feeds, all in an attempt to figure out what was happening not only in New York, but also in Pennsylvania and Washington D.C.. Phone call after phone call, people from the area called in to share their feelings and in many cases, express their anger and disgust as we quickly learned that this tragedy was no mistake, but was developing into the worst attack on U.S. soil since Pearl Harbor. Much of the day, we were still in fear that additional attacks would be coming. They never did. As a result, there was plenty of panic all over, including in the Utica area. There were dozens and dozens of cancellations and by staying on the air, we were able to help coordinate the abrupt stop in everyone's lives.
Several times during the program, we connected with people from the Utica area who were in New York City. One female caller was speaking to us from her apartment near New York's Seaport. When the first tower collapsed, she was on the phone with us and her call disconnected. We would later find out that she was safe and her phone service had disconnected because of the tower collapse.
It was also a big moment when we were able to connect via telephone with then Mayor Griffo. We spoke with Joe for about 20 minutes as he described what he had witnessed on that morning that changed all of our lives forever. The interview with Joe had never been replayed, nor had the bulk of the program from that morning ever aired again. We played a portion of the interview on Friday morning just before we spoke with Joe as he reflected on that day 20 years ago.
Here's the interview from start to finish as it had originally aired on September 11, 2001 at about 2:05 p.m.. The tape includes familiar voices from my past radio programs, including the late Frank McBride and Kay Howland, along with Matt Barbuto who now works at the Nexstar TV group in Utica.