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WARREN 'Today' show weatherman visits



Published: Thu, September 20, 2001 @ 12:00 a.m.



Al Roker faced stringent airport security measures on his way to Warren.

By AMANDA C. DAVIS

VINDICATOR TRUMBULL STAFF

WARREN -- One of America's favorite weathermen choked back tears as he recounted how close last week's tragedy hit home.

Al Roker, of NBC's "Today" show, told a crowded Packard Music Hall on Wednesday that three firefighters who are believed to be dead worked out of a station a few blocks from his Manhattan high rise on East 75th Street.

"Three firefighters we knew are gone," the native New Yorker said.

Speaking while standing in front of a giant U.S. flag, Roker went on to explain what he had to go through to honor his commitment to be the first guest lecturer of the 24th annual celebrity series presented by YWCA's Trumbull Town Hall.

Arrived early: He arrived at New York's LaGuardia Airport a few hours before his flight was to take off.

Even though the airport wasn't crowded, Roker said, it took quite a while for airport security to check him and his bags.

"He called it "just shy of a full body cavity search."

Security officials took away a disposable razor and batteries that Roker packed, and they made him pull up a pant leg after a detector was set off by metal in his knee, from a recent surgery.

Found a loophole: Once through the detection area, Roker said, he went into an airport store, where he was able to buy batteries and a razor. He took the items back to security officials to show them how easy it was to breach that security measure.

"I wasn't trying to be a wise guy," Roker said. "Obviously we haven't closed all the [security] loopholes."

He called the World Trade Center tragedies horrifying and explained that the images on TV don't convey "one-tenth of what it looks like in person.

"In 18 minutes the world changed; our world changed," he said.

The "Today Show" was on the air when commercial aircraft slammed into both World Trade Center towers, eventually leveling them both.

Reporters have been working long hours, Roker said, "But it doesn't compare to what those rescue workers are doing down there."

Old days: Kay Fisher, the program's chairwoman, introduced Roker, saying that her husband was battling cancer in the 1980s when the weatherman worked for a Cleveland news station.

She said her husband always wanted to stay up late to catch Roker's report, because it was always funny.

Roker used humor to lighten the mood Wednesday, poking fun at himself by saying he uses special effects makeup to avoid looking so much like Denzel Washington.

He told the audience he got his spirit and positive disposition from his parents, and he said his greatest joys have come from his two daughters, Courtney, 14, and Leila, 2.

He met with the public before the lecture, signing copies of his book, "Don't Make Me Stop This Car."

davis@vindy.com




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