Brian Williams, anchor and managing editor
As I was departing on USAir (actually operated by Republic) Regional Jet Service to Pittsburgh this morning, I noticed the young woman in the TSA line in front of me. She was wearing flip-flops but had a pair of combat boots in her carry-on tote bag. As she placed her laptop in the plastic bin, I noticed the bumper sticker she had affixed to the lid. It read, "ANARCHY." And I thought: How brilliant...she's a protest commuter! She's able, conceivably, to wake up in New York, fly to Pittsburgh, protest against the G-20, and be home in time for Leno! It's almost the same thing I'm doing -- except for the protest part -- and it struck me that we're both flying to Pittsburgh to utilize the First Amendment. What a country. And to think regional jet service makes it all possible! If you haven't flown regional jets before, here's a handy way to simulate the experience: As you read this, bring your knees to within about 8 inches of your chest. There. That's exactly what regional jet service feels like!
I can't help but feel sad here in Pittsburgh, mostly because I love Pittsburgh. This is such a vibrant, proud, compact, loyal, strong and beautiful modern city...and today, it's absolutely empty. Portions of downtown look like Sarajevo during the war. There are Humvees and troops in camouflage holding automatic weapons at every major intersection. There are police from jurisdictions as far away as New York. There are no people on the streets. You can't hear a bus, a boat, a plane or a car...let alone a horn. Future host cities of political conventions and G-20 summits should understand something: Despite the promises of public attention and economic boom...hosting one of these events means shutting down all or part of your city. That's what's sad about Pittsburgh today. Just as they are preparing to host people from all over the world for the first time, and show off this great place: the people who make this city great have been ushered out of town.
First Amendment update: As I write this, the first puffs of teargas are rising over one Pittsburgh neighborhood, at exactly the same time President Obama arrives, miles away at the airport.
We'll have all of it for you tonight. I hope you can join us from Pittsburgh tonight.