Nine days after the attacks of September 11th 2001, Daily Show host Jon Stewart returned to the airwaves with an impassioned take on the events of 9/11. Stewart began his show in silence, and then simple asking his audience.
“Are you OK?”
“I’m sorry to do this to you…it’s another entertainment show beginning with an overwrought speech of a shaken host, and television is nothing if not redundant. I apologize for that, it’s something that we unfortunately do for ourselves so we can drain whatever abscess is in our hearts, and move on to the business of making you laugh,” Stewart said, his voice trembling off, struggling to stay composed.
Stewart spoke of the privilege he had of making people laugh, and recalled his childhood memories of when Martin Luther King JR. was shot. The teary-eyed host reminded the audience that the United States is lucky to allow the type of satire that makes his show possible.
“We sit in the back and throw spitballs—but never forgetting that it is a luxury in this country that allows us to do that. That is, a country that allows for open satire, and I know that sounds basic and it sounds like it goes without saying,” Stewart said.
“But that’s really what this whole situation is about. It’s the difference between closed and open. The difference between free and…burdened.”
Stewart then spoke directly to viewers, especially those who were not able to witness the day to day activities happening in New York City, and told them about the amount of courage he had seen walking the streets of New York.
“To see these guys, these firefighters and these policemen and people from all over the country, literally with buckets, rebuilding…that’s extraordinary. And that’s why we have already won…they can’t…it’s light. It’s democracy. They can’t shut that down,” Stewart said, before telling viewers the difference between Americans and the people who wish to test us.
“They live in chaos. And chaos, it can’t sustain itself…it never could. It’s too easy and it’s too unsatisfying. The view…from my apartment…was the World Trade Center.”
“Now it’s gone. They attacked it. This symbol of…of American ingenuity and strength…and labor and imagination and commerce and it’s gone. But you know what the view is now? The Statue of Liberty…the view from the south of Manhattan is the Statue of Liberty,” Stewart said, his voice trailing off in tears.
“You can’t beat that…”