Veteran WINS Reporter John Montone Had ‘Story to Tell’ on 9/11 Despite Extremely Difficult Situation

John Montone is a longtime morning mainstay at 1010 WINS. He is most associated with his “person on the street” interviews that allow him some license. Montone can have some fun finding the quirky, off-beat slices of humanity.

However, without missing a beat, when developments, warrant Montone gets serious, jumping into breaking news mode. News was at its most serious on Sept. 11, 2001, as we continue with our special series “9/11: New York Remembers.”

The biggest story prior to 8:46 a.m. was Primary Day in New York City. Montone worked that story from the Upper East Side. After going live, Montone was in the process of filing his taped reports. He was paged by the station that a “small plane” hit one of the towers at the World Trade Center.Even if initial reports were accurate, Montone knew it was still a big story.

“I immediately start driving down York [Avenue] and on to the F.D.R. [Drive] where I did notice some ambulances were screaming down south too,” Montone tells FishbowlNY. “So I kind of got behind them.”

As he got close to the scene, listening to WINS, a second plane (now known to be jetliners) hit the other tower. “It became pretty obvious to me that we were under attack,” Montone says. “Large planes just don’t fly into the two towers coincidentally.”

He says knowing what was developing sent a “temporary shiver” through him, but as a professional newsman Montone “blocked everything else out.” Montone says the enormity of the story made it very difficult to cover. “It was much too big to really get your mind around.”

Montone eventually parked his truck on Broadway, a couple of blocks away from the destruction. Unlike most others, with recorder and cell phone in hand, he was running toward the devastation.

His cell phone was rendered useless. So Montone, who had spoken to several people as they evacuated, ran back to his vehicle to call the station from his car phone, which also wasn’t connecting.

His last chance at getting on the air was to find a pay phone. He went to a record store near City Hall where he was a regular customer and they gave him a landline. Montone went live, complete with tape from others.

Then Montone took off to get closer to the World Trade Center. He stopped by the Century 21 department store where he spoke to the doorman. “Shit’s falling.” the man said as he grabbed Montone, who later realized that the man was referring to people jumping from the burning towers.

As he saw the black smoke billowing, Montone thought to himself, “Look what these sons-of-bitches have done to us.” But with no time to ruminate, Montone had to describe the scene for WINS listeners. He noticed a “mob” gathering on Broadway. So he made his way to gather audio for the next live update.

“As I was running up, there was a line of firefighters going in,” Montone recalls. “I didn’t give it any thought at the time. But, of course, many of those young guys were killed. They were going into something that everyone else was running away from.”

As he got to Broadway, Montone found more people who were ready to talk. “I was interviewing a woman when she screamed, ‘It’s coming down!’ In my mind’s eye, I thought of the building just toppling over,” Montone reflects. “I looked, it was a matter of a second, but it was kind of a whooshing sound. I can only say it was like being under a great wave, but it was dry. The building had just disintegrated.”

Montone, in an effort to get the story, was now completely covered in ash. Following the collapse, Montone got pushed, by momentum from the crowd, into a building with an entrance on Broadway and Nassau Street.