The date was Sunday, March 6, 1970, and I was in New York City, about to begin my career in network television news the next day.
Having just arrived in New York by train from Washington, DC, I was hanging out in the CBS News newsroom when an explosion shattered the afternoon in lower Manhattan and destroyed a Greenwich Village townhouse.
That moment in time came back to all of us recently when CBS Sunday Morning aired a retrospective report about accidental explosion by the radical Weather Underground group and featured my first ever report on the air at CBS News. Members of the Weather Underground were domestic terrorists – as we would call them today – and had been making a bomb in the basement of the townhouse when something went wrong. The place was leveled and three members of the group died.
As I write these words I think, gosh, that was a long time ago – and, it was – but I remember vividly.
Evening News producer Hal Haley – a tall, likable fellow – rushed up to me in the newsroom to ask if I’d cover the story. Of course I would but Hal thought I was too casually dressed to be on the air. I was wearing bluejeans and an old shirt. Back in those days, CBS News reporters had to be more presentable-looking on the air. So Hal loaned me his overcoat to wear for a stand-up at the scene.
I was across the street from the burning remains of the townhouse, asking people what happened when I noticed the fellow to my right was Dustin Hoffman. He had lived next door to the blasted-out townhouse, he told me, and was concerned about the safety of his own home. We struck up a conversation but I could not talk him into an interview on camera.
After CBS Sunday News aired that evening, leading with my report, Hal, anchorman Hughes Rudd, and a group of producers and writers took me to dinner. It was an experience of pure joy in my early career.
Here is the recent CBS Sunday report. I appear on camera at 1:04 into the piece.