In Memoriam: NFL Films Plans Dramatic, Nation-Wide 9/11 Tribute

Any photographer will tell you: the best shots are the ones you don’t plan for. Just ask Glenn Adamo, VP of media operations for the NFL.

At the World Trade Center site in Lower Manhattan last week, Adamo and his crew were capturing footage of the rapidly growing 9/11 Memorial for NBC to use during Sunday night’s national broadcast of the Dallas Cowboys vs. the New York Jets.

It happened that FDNY Battalion 1, the first firefighters on the scene after the first tower was hit, was also visiting the site and agreed to be part of the shoot. Adamo had the battalion members frame the pools of water that stand where the two towers once stood.

“It was really dramatic,” says Adamo, whose cousin, Battalion Chief John LaBarbara, was a 9/11 first responder . “I gotta tell you, I got all filled up when we shot it. These are the guys that were the true first responders, and, for me, to shoot this was one of the most emotional moments I’ve had since 2001.”

As the tenth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks is commemorated nation-wide this Sunday, the NFL will open the bulk of its 2011 season and has an elaborate nation-wide tribute scheduled.

“It’s going to be very complex. That’s the best way to describe it,” says Adamo. “It’s a real challenge that, with the networks’ help, we’re able to pull off.”

The NFL will offer three separate tributes prior to the 1:00, 4:00, and 8:00 games, respectively. Each tribute will open with a speech by Academy Award-winning actor Robert De Niro, followed by a minute-long moment of silence with a bugler playing “Taps” at one of three sites. From there, the show will dissolve to shots from all the stadiums where play is about to begin. An American flag will cover all the fields and will be held in place by the players as the National Anthem is sung.

“The logistics of this are kind of hellacious, but it’s kind of fun to put together,” says Adamo. “It’s like a fun puzzle, but it’s a fun puzzle with a very, very dramatic outcome.”

The 1:00 games will open with a live shot from Shanksville, PA, site of the Flight 93 National Memorial, where approximately 10,000 people are expected to honor the passengers who brought down the hijacked plane. At 4:00, another bugler will be positioned at the Robert E. Lee Memorial overlooking Arlington National Cemetery, with the Capital and the Pentagon in the background. Prior to the night game, a bugler will play in Hoboken, NJ, with the Twin Towers of light illuminating the sky over Lower Manhattan in the background.

All three tributes will be carried live by the networks (CBS, Fox, NBC). In addition, the league, which will produce the show out of NFL Films’ Mount Laurel, NJ, studio will feed directly to NFL Network, DIRECTV, NFL RedZone, and the league’s international feed. At each of the three sites, NFL Films will have two satellite trucks and a production truck with three or four cameras, including jibs taking in the scenes. The stadium shots will all be taken from clean feeds returning from the networks.

Adamo describes the presentation, the brainchild of NFL Films COO Howard Katz, as more an operational challenge than a technical one, but he adds that it’s a project he’s honored to be a part of.

“It’s a labor of love, being able to chair and produce this,” says Adamo, who was working for the NHL’s New Jersey Devils just across the Hudson River when the Twin Towers fell. “This is kind of a real catharsis. Ten years later, to be on this side and to be part of this tribute has been incredible.

“It’s probably one of the more challenging things we’re ever done,” he adds. “I’m all excited about it.”

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