Re: Dan Rather On Letterman shortly after:
“What followed was probably the most unabashedly wounded and emotionally true seven minutes in the history of variety television. Dave’s voice was shaky. “If we are going to do shows, I just need to hear myself talk for a couple of minutes … forgive me if this is more for me than for people watching.”
The cathartic centerpiece of that night’s extraordinary monologue was a dramatic expression of incredulity: “The reason we were attacked, the reason these people were dead … as I understand it … another smaller group of people stole some airplanes and crashed them into buildings. And we’re told they were zealots fueled by religious fervor. Religious fervor. And if you live to be a thousand years old, will that make any sense to you? Will that make any God damn sense?”
The audience was still and rapt throughout.
During the commercial break, Dave took off his glasses and brought tissues to his face. His producers circled closely around him.
The lead guest, Dan Rather, made ensuing headlines by crying outright during his interview panels – twice, in fact: Once when describing his visit to Ground Zero and again while reciting a stanza of “America the Beautiful.” But it was not the spectacle of a hardened newsman choking down tears that made the show remarkable, and Rather’s breakdown was certainly not the result of any Oprah-style inducement on Dave’s part. “Good Christ, you’re a human being,” Letterman assured Rather. Dave had abandoned his persona of polished host to speak emotionally with his audience, and that enabled Dan Rather to take a step sideways from his role as rock-solid news reporter. It was the allowance of feeling, not its manufacture, that made the show unforgettable throughout, and cathartic for its viewers.”