Now that I have a camera on my new computer, I can share with you a video and a story that I'll be sharing with my grandkids someday about something that happened to me on September 11, 2001 I'll never forget. In a way, I'm glad it's a funny thing that ended up happening because the horrors of that day will forever linger.
In April 2001, I had a little bit of extra time during the day that I did not have before because I was unemployed at the time. That is when I began watching some of the morning television programs I have never seen before since they came on while I was at work. I was pleasantly surprised by the quality of the daytime programming. One such television entertainment show that I especially liked was one that broadcast live out of downtown Manhattan in New York City called LIVE with Regis and Kelly.
Regis Philbin is the affable male host of the show who became a household name over the past couple of years with his hit ABC-TV show, Who Wants To Be A Millionaire (although it was surprisingly canceled after ratings slipped). Kelly Ripa, who replaced long-time female co-host Kathy Lee Gifford in early 2001, is the sexy, but quirky sidekick for Regis on the show. She also stars in the daytime soap opera All My Children and the recently nixed ABC comedy Hope & Faith.
One day in May 2001, I noticed that LIVE with Regis and Kelly was running a contest called "Travel Trivia." Everyday the show would have a contest near the beginning of the broadcast with a lucky contestant from home for a chance to win a trip to various places all over the world. Regis would spin a wheel to find out which trip the contestant would be playing for. Then the contestant at home got 20 seconds to answer a question about one of the guests from the previous day's show. Even if they got the answer wrong, the contestants were given a $250 gift certificate to various stores as a consolation prize.
After watching the show one day, I decided to hop on my computer to visit the LIVE with Regis and Kelly web site to find out more information about how to enter for a chance to be a contestant in the "Travel Trivia" contest. To my delight, there was a link right there on the web site to enter once per day. There was also an address to send postcards, but the web site seemed to be a more efficient and economic way to enter. Thus, I made the LIVE with Regis and Kelly web site one of my daily visits for the next 4 months.
And then on September 11, 2001 it happened...
I got a call from one of the producers of LIVE with Regis and Kelly at 7:30am that day. She said my name was chosen to be a contestant in the "Travel Trivia" contest. I said jokingly “I knew it had to be you guys calling me this early in the morning!” She told me that I would be asked a question about one of the guests from the previous day's show and she told me who was on the show since I admitted I had not watched that day. The producer said that she would be calling me back around 8:45am to be put on hold until the "Travel Trivia" contest took place live on the show around 9:15am.
After hanging up the phone with her, I immediately jumped out of bed and hit the Internet to research what I could find about each of the guests from the previous day's show. I went to Yahoo!, Google, and wherever else I could find and entered the names of the guests to record as much information as I could about their careers on a legal pad. I made notes of what I could find and went into my living room to turn on the television and wait by the telephone for the call.
A little over an hour after I received that exciting telephone call, the tragic attack on the World Trade Center towers in New York City began. I was literally on hold with the producer of LIVE with Regis and Kelly watching the television waiting for the show to begin around 8:45am when The Today Show began showing the first World Trade Center tower on fire. The commentators were speculating that it might have been an accident.
When it was time for LIVE with Regis and Kelly to begin at 9:00am, the producer came on the line and told me that they might not be having a show today because of the plane flying into the World Trade Center tower. She said that their studio is only a few blocks from the World Trade Center towers. At 9:00am, I was listening on the phone to LIVE with Regis and Kelly since The Today Show was still being shown on the television.
Around 9:10am, I was watching the television with the mute on and listening to Regis talking about what was happening in New York when the other plane crashed into the second World Trade Center tower. I could hear the gasps of the audience members when that happened and you could sense that something unprecedented was happening.
At that moment, the producer came on the line and said that something really bad was going on in New York City and that they will have to evacuate their building immediately. She assured me that I would be called back as soon as the next show was scheduled...whenever that would be. Somehow, that was not the most important thing to me at the time after the horrific scene my eyes had witnessed on television!
For the next few days, the producer (I found out later that her name is Linda) called me from her home to let me know that they had not forgotten about me and that I am in line to be called for the "Travel Trivia" game as soon as they are back on the air live. Because downtown Manhatten was closed for several days because of the fear that other buildings in the area might collapse, it was over a week before the show would be back on the air again live. They showed repeats of the show until LIVE with Regis and Kelly returned to the air on Wednesday, September 19, 2001.
It was on that Wednesday in September that I would have my chance to win a trip to an enchanting vacation destination...
When I got the phone call from Linda the producer on September 19, 2001 at 7:30am, this time, I was ready for it to happen. I was probably the only contestant they ever had who had more than a week to prepare for the "Travel Trivia" game (actually, I did not do any additional research than I had done on the morning they called me). Because it had been so long since their last show, though, I asked Linda what kind of question I would get for the "Travel Trivia" contest. She said it would be the same question they would have asked if they had the show on September 11th. So I went back to the notes I made from my research of the guests from September 10th.
Finally, it was time for the show to begin at 9am. I was watching the show on my television with the volume turned all the way down while I was listening to the show on the telephone. I was so nervous that I could feel my heart beating loudly and my hands were getting sweaty. I even noticed every breath I was taking was very deliberate and shallow. The time seemed to go by extremely slow as I awaited my opportunity to be on national television. Obviously, I was getting excited because I knew I was only seconds away from having the chance to win a trip to a popular vacation spot.
Around 9:15am, it was time for "Travel Trivia." Watch what happened next when yours truly, Jimmy Moore, made his television debut long before he started or was even thinking about livin' la vida low-carb. This is hilarious, so you don't wanna miss it (you can also watch it at YouTube and comment there if you would like):
When the big wheel of prizes came down from the ceiling as the theme music for the game was being played, my knees were shaking hard. Then on the television screen was an outline of South Carolina with a big red star where my hometown was, signifying that I was from Spartanburg, SC.
My name was also plastered across the screen as Regis said, “On the phone is Jimmy Moore (he pronounced it Moooore, like a cow!) from Spartanburg, SC. How ya doin’ Jimmy?” At that moment, the phone was screeching really loud as I was saying hello to both Regis and Kelly. Regis said that they must be having some technical difficulties with their phone. Regis said “Can we hear Jimmy?” About that time, I said very clearly, “Hello?” Regis responded, “Oh, Hi Jimmy, how you doing?” I retorted back, “I’m here buddy!” Regis, Kelly and the studio audience burst into laughter.
Regis, the consummate professional able to make small talk with anyone, made the only connection he had to South Carolina: Lou Holtz who was the coach of the South Carolina Gamecock football team at the time. He started bragging about Holtz’ 2-0 record at the beginning of the 2001 season.
Kelly inquired about how Regis knew so much about college football, but Regis explained that he likes to keep up with certain teams, such as South Carolina. Kelly then says, “South Carolina, isn’t that the Tarheels?” Regis chimes in that the Tarheels are actually the North Carolina team. He explained that South Carolina are the Gamecocks. Then he said in a matter-of-fact manner looking at the camera, “Right, Jimmy?” Then I said, “I’m not a big fan, but yeah!” Again the audience and Kelly burst into laughter as Regis looked exacerbated by my statement. I tried to explain to him that I am a fan of the Tennessee Volunteers, my alma mater, but the phone started acting up again.
Regis quickly began describing a new prize to England valued at $14,000 that was added to the wheel that day. Then Regis asked what I did for a living. I explained that I was a student working on my Master’s Degree in public policy back then and that I would be graduating in May 2002 from Regent University in Virginia Beach, Virginia. He wished me well in my career endeavors. Regis asked if I was married. I told him that “I am married to my beautiful wife, Christine, for six years. No kids yet, though.” Regis said that “this would be a nice trip for the two of you.”
Finally, after all the chit chat was finished, it was time to get down to business and play the game. Regis spun the "Travel Trivia" wheel to see what trip I would be playing for. As it spun around and around, I was hoping it would land on a really nice vacation spot. As it slowed down, you are never going to believe what the destination for the trip I was playing for landed on...MYRTLE BEACH, SC!
Regis started shaking his head and said, “Jimmy, Jimmy, Jimmy, you won the prize, Myrtle Beach, SC!” Kelly perked up and said, “Hey Jimmy, you could walk there, right?” I responded that it was only a few hours away. Regis then asked me if I played golf and I responded, “Uh, no!” ( I do now, by the way!).
Regis replied, “It’s still a lovely place to visit because you could walk on the beach and watch those great sunsets.” Kelly jokingly said, “You can call home, it wouldn’t even cost you anything.” Regis got a big kick out of that comment as everyone in the studio laughed. Regis explained that it was a week’s stay and included two rounds of golf.
Then Regis got this bright idea look on his face as he explained that this would be the perfect opportunity for me to learn how to play golf while I was in Myrtle Beach. He said that if I learned how to play golf, I would always remember that Regis and Kelly were the ones who made it happen for me. Regis then said that in order for me to win, though, I have to answer the trivia question correctly first.
The question was about professional tennis player Lleyton Hewitt, who had just defeated Pete Sampras in the 2001 U.S. Open. The trivia question asked “What country is Lleyton Hewitt from?” Being a sports fan and looking at my sheet of notes from my research, I knew the answer right away. I said the answer emphatically--“Australia!” Regis said “You got it, Jimmy!” The announcer came on and described my vacation, which he said was valued at $4000 (had to pay the taxes on that trip, too! EEEK!).
I also enjoyed picking a number so an in-studio guest could win a prize. At the time I was 29 years old, so I just added a "1" in front of my age to come up with "129." As you will notice in the video, the winner was a mom there with her young son and daughter and the genuine look of excitement on that little girl's face is something I'll never forget. I was so happy she won.
Before I hung up the phone, Regis said, “Jimmy, have a wonderful time down there in Myrtle Beach. Will you do me a favor?” I said, “Yes, sir.” He continued, “Will you write me after you take advantage of this vacation and tell me that you took golf lessons while you were there?” Thinking quickly, I told Regis that he would have to come with me. Regis retorted that his back problems prevent him from playing anymore. He then wished me well again as they went into a commercial break.
So, Myrtle Beach, SC is where Christine and I went on our anniversary in 2002...compliments of LIVE with Regis & Kelly. The ironic twist to this story is that I was NOT able to take advantage of those two rounds of golf. I broke the nevicular bone in my left wrist in May 2002 and it had not healed well enough for me to swing a golf club yet. Oh well! At least I can always say that Regis Philbin paid for my vacation! :D
That's my Regis & Kelly 9/11 memory I'll never forget!