Steve Buscemi to host 9/11 tribute at National Memorial Day Concert

Listen to our full conversation in my podcast “Beyond the Fame.”

WTOP's Jason Fraley chats with Steve Buscemi (Part 1)

The annual National Memorial Day Concert airs this Sunday at 8 p.m. on PBS.

It will include a 20th anniversary remembrance of 9/11 presented by Steve Buscemi.

“I went to D.C. almost 20 years ago the year after 9/11; I was asked to do the 9/11 tribute then because they knew I’m a former firefighter with Engine 55 in Manhattan,” Buscemi said. “Here we are 20 years later. I’m actually not coming to D.C. I’ve pretaped my tribute at Ground Zero in front of the Freedom Tower and 9/11 museum, so I’m very honored.”

He’ll never forget the heartbreak of watching the Twin Towers fall.

“It was awful,” Buscemi said. “Knowing how many people work there and how many people that were lost in the buildings, that was so overwhelming. It was really hard to comprehend. It wasn’t until I started hearing the numbers of firefighters that were missing that it hit home for me, because now I knew that I would know people who were lost.”

He immediately flew to Ground Zero to assist his former firefighter colleagues.

“The next day on Sept. 12, I was able to get down to the site and work with my old company,” Buscemi said. “It was a privilege to work alongside them and witness the humanity in the face of the greatest evil, to see all of these people come together: first responders, steel workers, sanitation workers, volunteers, Red Cross, it was amazing.”

He wishes every day could be like 9/12 with Americans coming together.

“I do wish we could get back to that feeling that it wasn’t just New York that was hit — it was this country,” Buscemi said. “So many people stepped up, volunteered and joined the service. Regardless of what your politics are and what you think about wars … you really have to support our service members. They’re doing it for love of their country.”


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He’s honored to salute veterans at the National Memorial Day Concert.

“My dad fought in Korea and my cousin, Anthony Buscemi, made the ultimate sacrifice in Vietnam, so his name is on the Vietnam War Memorial,” Buscemi said.

Born in Brooklyn in 1957, Buscemi broke into Hollywood in Quentin Tarantino’s “Reservoir Dogs” (1992), followed by his iconic role in “Fargo” (1996), which celebrates 25 years.

“It’s the Coen Brothers, the writing is so good and of course Frances McDormand’s performance, she’s the real heart of the movie,” Buscemi said. “That’s what I love about it. It has their dark sensibility and their dark humor, but then you have Frances’ character that counterbalances that. All of the performances, if I do say so myself, are top rate.”

Do fans still ask about the wood chipper scene?

“It hasn’t happened lately, but it’s happened enough in the past,” Buscemi said. “Especially when people say that’s their favorite scene, and I say, ‘OK, I actually wasn’t in that scene, but OK, thank you.’ That was a prosthetic leg.”

This month also marks the 20th anniversary of Buscemi directing the “Pine Barrens” episode of “The Sopranos,” often rated the best episode in the best TV series ever.

“Terry Winter wrote that episode [and] the story came from Tim Van Patten,” Buscemi said. “Any of those regular directors would have knocked it out of the park because the script was so good, those actors were just amazing and I felt lucky that I was the one to get to do it. It was so much fun. I’m really happy that I was able to be a part of that show.”

Today, he promotes the organization Friends of Firefighters.

“It provides free mental health services to firefighters,” Buscemi said. “A lot of firefighters and first responders, after what they went through, suffer from post traumatic stress, survivor’s guilt and 9/11-related cancers. This past year, COVID added more stress. … Now more than ever we need to step up and provide them with the help they need.”

WTOP's Jason Fraley chats with Steve Buscemi (Part 2)

Listen to our full conversation in my podcast “Beyond the Fame.”

Jason Fraley

Hailed by The Washington Post for “his savantlike ability to name every Best Picture winner in history," Jason Fraley began at WTOP as Morning Drive Writer in 2008, film critic in 2011 and Entertainment Editor in 2014, providing daily arts coverage on-air and online.

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