It was a sunny late summer morning—64 degrees and not a cloud in the Manhattan sky on September 11, 2001.
We continue our unprecedented look back at 9/11: New York Remembers with a pair of NY1 reporters—Kristen Shaughnessy and Amanda Farinacci.
With it being primary day in New York, Shaughnessy, NY1 weekend anchor since 1995, was positioned in Brooklyn at the time (8:46 a.m.) of the first strike on the World Trade Center towers.
She thought it was incredulous, if not impossible, when the newsroom alerted her about the breaking news.
Shaughnessy and her live truck operator broke down the gear and headed for the Brooklyn Bridge, which was already closed, save for emergency vehicles. Fortunately, Shaughnessy had built a friendship with some of the firefighters.
“Follow us,” she was told. “So we were the only two vehicles on the bridge.”
As the second plane already hit the other building, they pulled over at City Hall and Shaughnessy continued on by foot to the towers.
“That’s when you saw everything,” Shaughnessy recalls. “You saw people jumping, just horrible stuff.”
While speaking with a couple of fire officials, Shaughnessy was told that “she needed to get out of here.”
“It was interesting. It was a look—I don’t know whether it was fear or what, because I guess they didn’t know what was going to happen,” Shaughnessy tells FishbowlNY.
In the next 90 minutes, the twin towers would become a giant pile of rubble.
Shaughnessy did eventually heed the advice and left the scene before the ultimate destruction. She found a pay phone (as there was no cellular service) and called into the NY1 coverage anchored by Pat Kiernan.
The phone was just a block away from the World Trade Center, on a street that was cordoned off.
“I didn’t know how much I should say that I saw, because some of it was very graphic,” Shaughnessy admits. “You’re just kind of weighing that as a journalist.”
During the call, Shaughnessy was providing live commentary as the first tower collapsed (See the video below).
“Oh, It’s just coming down, Pat,” Shaughnessy told viewers. “It is just coming down!”
Once again, Shaughnessy was ordered to get out of the area. This time, the many components from the tower’s dismantling formed a thick, toxic cloud, racing down the street.
But first, Shaughnessy had a split-second thought.
“I should run, but, I’m thinking in my head, do they understand why I would run?” Shaughnessy recalls. “Am I going to get in trouble for dropping the phone while I’m live?”
Before wasting much time, she ran away from the World Trade Center, eventually catching up to the masses of people.
Shaughnessy’s brief report as the tower tumbled has become a useful tool for some college journalism courses.
On the move, Shaughnessy made the trek to the East Side where triages were set up.
“But nobody was there,” Shaughnessy reflects.
She attempted to do another live report at a pay phone between the courts and City Hall.
“I think at that point was I was so panicked, I don’t know if I made any sense,” Shaughnessy admits.
Her next report would not be until she returned to the NY1 studios around 5 or 6 p.m.
Throughout her hellish day, Shaughnessy’s memories are scattered.
“Some of the things are foggy, as to what happened, like in the afternoon hours when I was sort of wandering, trying to find my way back,” Shaughnessy remembers. “Some of it, like right when I got to the towers, it’s like it happened yesterday. The smells and the sights—it comes right back.”
NY1 Reporter Amanda Farinacci Affected by 9/11 With Family of Firefighters
Amanda Farinacci was with NY1 “officially” only a couple weeks when the terrorist attacks occurred. The Fordham University graduate was a news assistant in those early days with the cable channel—responsible only for shooting video.
Farinacci had interned at NY1 since August 2000 and with WNBC before that.
The young, would-be reporter (she was 21 at the time) learned the ropes by shadowing others.
“That was the first day that I was actually allowed to shoot by myself,” Farinacci tells FishbowlNY.
Her day began at 6 a.m. covering Mark Green voting on the Upper East Side on Primary Day.
By the time she got back to the station, the NY1 assignment editor told her about the dramatic turn to her day planner. Farinacci, along with news assistant (now reporter) Shazia Khan, was driven to the scene by a courier.
“We were on the West Side Highway when the second plane hit,” Farinacci recalls. “It was kind of pandemonium. He [the courier] started crying, and Shazia and I were like, ‘Oh my God, what is this?’”
Moments later, they parked the vehicle at Vesey Street.
“I was young and stupid. ‘Should I bring my sticks [tripod]?’ Not realizing what was going on.”
Before they would get too close, police ordered Farinacci and Khan to move back. They ran away from the devastation.
But not before Farinacci and company would get video of people jumping from blazing World Trade Center towers.
“As I was filming it, looking at it, you’re not really realizing that you’re watching people jump and they’re dying,” Farinacci says.
Thereafter, they wandered into a bus rental company, which gave them a moment to catch their collective breath.
“We had bigger cameras at the time, so it was like we were running with all that stuff,” Farinacci remembers. “When I got home that day I had cuts in my shoulders from having walked all the way back to 42nd Street, which is such an insignificant injury compared to everybody else.”
Farinacci got her on-air initiation, giving her first live report on the phone.
“I described having seen the plane hit the tower and [didn’t want] to speculate: Is this terrorism or not?”
The tragedy of 9/11 and the aftermath had a special impact on the Brooklyn-born Farinacci.
“My dad is a retired firefighter, my brother is a firefighter [in Brooklyn], but my godfather was killed in 9/11,” Farinacci says. “My family was all firefighters.”
Fortunately, her dad left the FDNY in April 2001.
“If he had been working, he would have been killed,” Farinacci reflects. “His whole group was working that day in the firehouse, and all of them were killed.”
That personal link kept Farinacci focused on the attacks.
“For three years after that, all I covered was 9/11,” Farinacci says. “We had that show New York Tonight, which was dedicated specifically to the aftermath of the World Trade Center attacks.”
She became the point person for stories related to the victim’s families.
“I was kind of like a producer,” Farinacci says. “I was the official photographer for the unit, and I did researching, writing, producing, all of that stuff.
Staten Island reporter Farinacci joined NY1 full time in 2004. However, the thoughts of that horrific day are never far from her mind.
“I actually didn’t even realize how it affected me until the Deutsche Bank fire (August 2007),” Farinacci admits. “I was there covering it that day and it was so similar to what I experienced on September 11 that I asked for a mental health day on the sixth anniversary of 9/11. It was just too much.”
Join us tomorrow as a longtime helicopter reporter gives a unique perspective to the events of 9/11.