by Brian Williams, anchor and managing editor
I remember a couple of Saturdays ago, I was in a store when my pager went off -- reporting a fire at the Deutsche Bank building in Lower Manhattan. I jumped in the car and headed for home, assuming that I'd turn on the television and see live coverage of the fire on all the local New York stations. But on this particular lazy summer weekend, there was nothing. At first, it seemed like a small but smoky fire in an abandoned building. Slowly, the cable networks came on with pictures, but still not grasping the seriousness of a fire in that pathetic, torn-up and dangerous structure. One anchor asked a correspondent if the building was "under construction." The truth is, as we've talked about here, it's an embarassment to New York that the building was still standing, six years after suffering a terminal scar when part of the collapsing World Trade Center cut a gash in the front. The loss of two New York City firefighters in that fire was an avoidable outrage -- they were doing their jobs in a building that wouldn't have been left standing if others had done theirs. We now know the toll that day could have been much worse. I read this today, and it is a harrowing story of the reflexive bravery among firefighters.
As we look at the stories we have to cover tonight, the busted terrorist plot in Germany tops the list -- mostly for what the alleged intended target was. We'll update the (continuing, it turns out) story of Senator Craig, the latest toy recall, and we'll have the story that is occupying all of my available time this afternoon: the first post-Soprano's interview with James Gandolfini, about his powerful new HBO Documentary, "Alive Day Memories".
50 YEARS AGO TODAY
A landmark cultural event: the publication of Jack Kerouac's "On the Road" by Viking Press on September 5, 1957. As it turns out, "On The Road" and NBC Nightly News have something in common -- actually someone: a fellow named Gilbert Millstein. Gil was this broadcast's brilliant, irascible, jazz-loving news editor back in the 1970s and '80s. But before that, he was a writer for the New York Times, which fifty years ago today published his review of "On the Road." Gil loved the book, calling its publication "a historic occasion" (yes, "a," not "an" - Gil was a stickler for correct usage, as the countless NBC News correspondents, producers and writers he terrorized could attest). "On the Road" was "a major novel" and "an authentic work of art," Gil wrote; "the most beautifully executed, the clearest and the most important utterance yet made by the Generation Kerouac himself named years ago as "beat," and whose principal avatar he is." Gil Millstein's glowing review of "On the Road" -- appearing as it did in such an influential setting as the New York Times -- gave Kerouac's unconventional new book an enormous boost, and guaranteed it a wide readership right out of the gate. Gil went on to many other things, including his years here at Nightly News. But when he died in 1999, it was that one piece of writing 50 years ago that he was most remembered for. The headline of his obituary in the Times read: "Gilbert Millstein, 83, Reviewer Who Gave Early Boost to Kerouac."
Please read today's Medal of Honor recipient biography as well. We sure hope you will join us for tonight's NBC Nightly News.