Scott Clark was the longtime sports anchor at WABC/Channel 7 until leaving the station in January.
He’s covered many Yankee championship runs, Giants Super Bowl wins, and the Rangers elusive Stanley Cup victory during his 25 years at the station.
Today in our special series—9/11: New York Remembers— Clark recalls those first hours and days following the destruction. He also talks about the aftermath and how he became symbol of hope.
But even though he wasn’t on the air during 9/11, it’s the horrific event that was first to cross the former sportscaster’s mind as a standout memory.
“Like every other New Yorker, that’s atop the list,” Clark tells FishbowlNY.
Clark was in Denver as the Giants opened the 2001 NFL season for the Monday nighter at the Broncos brand new stadium. The Giants were defending NFC Champs.
“I was at the airport when I saw the second plane hit the building as I was headed to my gate,” Clark recalls. “I just turned around; I didn’t even go to the gate.”
At that point, Clark realized heading home would have to wait. He spent several days at a hotel in the Denver airport. Eventually, when he saw planes were still grounded on Friday the 14th, Clark took matters into his own hands, driving cross country back to New York.
“You’re listening to everything that’s going on because it’s still 24/7 [coverage],” Clark recalls. “It was surreal to keep in touch with the radio as you’re driving across this country, and knowing how it’s affecting everyone.”
He also remembers seeing American flags dotting the landscape.
By the time he reached Terre Haute, Indiana, where a motorcycle extravaganza took place that weekend, Clark found no available hotel rooms.
“I slept in a parking lot,” Clark says.
He made the 1775-mile trek in just two days.
Clark was ready to go for the new week of sportscasts on WABC. But it was too soon.
“We didn’t do any sports for a couple of weeks,” Clark remembers. “…It was emotional and very memorable.”
In the weeks that followed, Clark became a beacon of hope and remembrance wearing officers’ badge pins on his lapel. Channel 7 forbids wearing any materials on the lapel, but knowing he was passionate, Clark says management never said a word.
Even though it wasn’t permitted, it all started at WABC.
“We had a security force at the station of cops and former cops at the station and one of them asked me if I’d wear the police badge,” Clark recalls.
From that initial one, others would send their badges for him to wear nightly. Clark would do so proudly.
“This [was] the least I could do—wear it every day—and I felt very strongly about it too,” Clark admits. “It’s despicable that a person forgets 9/11. It’s just unpatriotic and lazy.”
Clark, 58, would wear badges of various agencies for the remainder of his run at WABC.
“On the occasion that I would forget to take the badge… and if I forgot to put the back-up on, I’d get a call from somebody.”
He says usually a police officer would contact Clark wondering why he stopped wearing the pin.
“They’re watching and they felt good when that badge was on my lapel because it showed them that someone is not forgetting,” Clark reflects.
Those nights, though, were few and far between as Clark would accrue an estimated 50 badges, all of which would get into the rotation.
“I used them all [on the air],” Clark says. “I was a little more partial to cops because it was the first one given to me and I wore that most of the time.”
The badges all were special for Clark, but some even had more meaning for the veteran sportscaster.
For example, he was sent a badge with the shield number 911. The retired officer wrote a letter encouraging Clark to add it to his collection.
“He .. told me how much it meant for me to wear it,” Clark remembers.
Clark also tells a poignant story of a pin he got while at the Marty Lyons Charity Golf Tournament. A woman approached Clark, and mentioned seeing the badges on every newscast.
The woman’s husband, Sargeant Michael S. Curtin, was killed in 9/11. She took out her husband’s pin, and requested Clark place it on his lapel.
“I’ll wear it with honor tonight,” Clark told the widow.
After fulfilling his promise, Clark left the Upper West Side studios. He then showed the latest shield to the WABC security chief, J.R. Garcia, a former NYPD Emergency Services officer.
“J.R.’s eyes start welling up and he says, ‘Mike Curtin replaced me on the force.’”
Join us tomorrow for the 9/11 account of a newly hired morning anchor, pressed into action behind the desk and in the field.