Paul Heyman Reflects On Working The Post-9/11 SmackDown In 2001

Paul Heyman is a New Yorker through and through.

Paul Heyman has been working at Madison Square Garden since he was a teenager taking photographs. Ahead of WWE return to Madison Square Garden for SmackDown on September 10, Paul Heyman is reflecting on working on one of the most emotional episodes of SmackDown ever, the episode of SmackDown that followed the September 11 terrorist attacks in 2001.

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Speaking with Sports Illustrated, Paul Heyman reflected on how difficult that night was as a native New Yorker and how much he remembers Lilian Garcia's rendition of the national anthem.

“I didn’t know how to convey that on the air, and I didn’t know if it was my place to do so, but as a New Yorker, I felt obligated to identify myself—not only from the perspective of New York as a locale in which I reside but also that deep down, the person you see talking at the moment is culturally, physically, spiritually a New Yorker at heart,” Heyman says. “I hardly remember anything about that night, other than the memory of Lilian Garcia singing. I don’t even remember what she sang, whether it was ‘God Bless, America,’ ‘America, The Beautiful,’ or the national anthem—I just remember she sang. When she was singing, she did it flawlessly. Her voice carried the emotion of the moment to such a degree that it moved me and woke me up. It also made me a complete emotional wreck.”

“I can’t tell you one match that happened on that show,” Heyman continued. “All I remember is the bolt that went through my system when I heard Lilian sing, which reminded me I had an obligation to deliver. Then I heard Jim Ross say, ‘Just follow my lead, kid, and you’ll be fine,’ which is the same thing he’d said to me during my first broadcast on Raw. Afterward, I can still remember Vince McMahon in my headset saying, ‘That was great. Now it’s time to entertain.’ From that point on, I hope J.R. and I did justice to the job for which we were tasked, but I don’t remember doing it all.”

WWE will premiere a documentary about that episode of SmackDown on Friday, September 10. Learn more here.

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