Eyewitness News

17 years ago tonight

Wednesday, July 17, 2013
Bill Ritters daily take on the news.

Bill Ritter's daily take on the news.

The call came 17 years ago tonight, just before 9:30. Actually it was a beep, because back then we used pagers more than cell phones. Get in your car, pick up two producers at ABC, and drive to East Moriches on Long Island. That's what the executive producer of Good Morning America told me when I called in.

And so I raced east on the Long Island Expressway, not knowing where exactly we were going, only that we were looking for the spot where TWA Flight 800 had crashed. The 747 had exploded just minutes after taking off from JFK. We would later learn that an executive producer for ABC Sports, Jack O'Hara, and his family, were on the plane - and were among the 230 passengers and crew killed.

We rented a boat and began reporting. The debris field was wide and scattered - a horrendous scene. And then we headed to the make shift Coast Guard morgue, fully lit in the pitch-black night. I remember we were caught in that bay at low tide, and ran aground. We got out, pushed our boat out of the sludge - and back into the deep. I think the reason I remember it so clearly is because I was crying, thinking about all those people, on their way to Paris in July, gone. Just like that. Did they know? Did the people in the front, or the back, know that the plane had been blown apart into two large pieces? How long were they alive? What did the mom and dad say to the children?

And so we remember all those good folks on TWA 800 tonight, on the 17th anniversary. So much new controversy about why the plane crashed. With all due respect to the filmmakers who have raised the terrorist theory - wouldn't someone or some group have claimed responsibility? Terrorists ain't shy about taking credit. We've unfortunately found that out many times since the 1996 crash.

Tonight, at the memorial for the victims in Smith Point County Park, the families will gather, and remember, and cry. We all will. We'll be there, tonight at 11.

Also at 11, the heat wave continues. And tonight we're having huge transportation problems involving both New Jersey Transit and the LIRR. Heat apparently affecting the equipment, just in time for the evening commute.

Meteorologist Lee Goldberg lets us know how long the heat wave will last, and how hot it will get tomorrow.

We'll also have any breaking news of the night, plus Rob Powers with the night's sports. I hope you can join Sade Baderinwa and me, tonight at 11.

BILL RITTER

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