<-- the video ("the monologue")
David Letterman's remarks on September 17, 2001...
opening and applause
(Dave sitting at desk)
Thank you very much.
Welcome to the Late Show. This
is our first show on the air since New York and
Washington were attacked, and I need to ask your patience and indulgence
here because I want to say a few things, and believe me, sadly, I'm not
going to be saying anything new, and in the past week others have said
what I will be saying here tonight far more eloquently than I'm equipped
But, if we are going to continue
to do shows, I just need to hear myself talk
for a couple of minutes, and so that's what I'm going to do here.
It's terribly sad here in New
York City. We've lost five thousand fellow New
Yorkers, and you can feel it. You can feel it. You can see it. It's terribly
sad. Terribly, terribly sad. And watching all of this, I wasn't sure that
should be doing a television show, because for twenty years we've been
city, making fun of everything, making fun of the city, making fun of
making fun of Paul... well...
So, to come to this circumstance
that is so desperately sad, I don't trust my
judgment in matters like this, but I'll tell you the reason that I am
show and the reason I am back to work is because of Mayor Giuliani.
Very early on, after the attack,
and how strange does it sound to invoke that
phrase, "after the attack?", Mayor Giuliani encouraged us --
and here lately
implored us -- to go back to our lives, go on living, continue trying
New York City the place that it should be. And because of him, I'm here
And I just want to say one
other thing about Mayor Giuliani: As this began, and
if you were like me, and in many respects, God, I hope you're not. But
one small measure, if you're like me, and you're watching and you're confused
and depressed and irritated and angry and full of grief, and you don't
to behave and you're not sure what to do and you don't really... because
never been through this before... all you had to do at any moment was
watch the Mayor. Watch how this guy behaved. Watch how this guy conducted
himself. Watch what this guy did. Listen to what this guy said. Rudolph
Giuliani is the personification of courage.
And it's very simple... there
is only one requirement for any of us, and that is
to be courageous, because courage, as you might know, defines all other
human behavior. And I believe, because I've done a little of this myself,
pretending to be courageous is just as good as the real thing. He's an
amazing man, and far, far better than we could have hoped for. To run
the city in the midst of this obscene chaos and attack, and also demonstrate
human dignity... my God... who can do that? That's a pretty short list.
The twenty years we've been
here in New York City, we've worked closely with
police officers and the fire fighters and...
...and fortunately, most of
us don't really have to think too much about what
these men and women do on a daily basis, and the phrase New York's finest
New York's bravest, you know, did it mean anything to us personally, firsthand?
Well, maybe, hopefully, but probably not. But boy, it means something
doesn't it? They put themselves in harm's way to protect people like us,
men and women, the fire fighters and the police department who are lost
going to be missed by this city for a very, very long time. And I, and
for myself and everybody else, not only in New York but everywhere, is
never, ever take these people for granted... absolutely never take them
I just want to go through this,
and again, forgive me if this is more for me
than it is for people watching, I'm sorry, but uh, I just, I have to go
The reason we were attacked,
the reason these people are dead, these people are missing and dead, and
they weren't doing anything wrong, they were living their lives, they
were going to work, they were traveling, they were doing what they normally
do. As I understand it (and my understanding of this is vague at best),
another smaller group of people stole some airplanes and crashed them
into buildings. And we're told that they were zealots, fueled by religious
religious fervor. And if you live to be a thousand years old, will that
sense to you? Will that make any God damn sense? Whew.
I'll tell you about a thing
that happened last night. There's a town in Montana
by the name of Choteau. It's about a hundred miles south of the Canadian
border. And I know a little something about this town. It's 1,600 people.
1,600 people. And it's an ag-business community, which means farming and
ranching. And Montana's been in the middle of a drought for... I don't
know... three years?
And if you've got no rain, you can't grow anything. And if you can't grow
anything, you can't farm, and if you can't grow anything, you can't ranch,
because the cattle don't have anything to eat, and that's the way life
is in a
small town. 1,600 people.
Last night at the high school
auditorium in Choteau, Montana, they had a rally
(home of the Bulldogs, by the way)... they had a rally for New York City.
not just a rally for New York City, but a rally to raise money... to raise
for New York City. And if that doesn't tell you everything you need to
about the... the spirit of the United States, then I can't help you. I'm
And I have one more thing to
say, and then, thank God, Regis is here, so we have something to make
If you didn't believe it before
(and it's easy to understand how you might have
been skeptical on this point), if you didn't believe it before, you can
absolutely believe it now...
New York City is the greatest
city in the world.
We're going to try
and feel our way through this, and we'll just see how it
goes... take it a day at a time. We're lucky enough tonight to have two
fantastic representatives of this town, Dan Rather and Regis Philbin,
be right back.