The season premiere of Saturday Night Live was set to go live on September 29, 2001, just 18 days after the events of September 11, 2001. However, cast and crew alike described an uncertainty over whether the show could or even should continue on, with producer and creator Lorne Michaels actually going to then-mayor of New York, Rudy Giuliani, for permission to begin the show.
In place of a traditional opening, Rudy Giuliani and several New York City police officers and firefighters, all of whom had spent the past number of days at ground zero for recovery work, were invited to stand on the stage. The opening was used to honor the first responders as Giuliani encouraged the crowd and viewers at home not to live in fear.
The opening also featured a performance by musician Paul Simon, who performed his song, "The Boxer." Then, Mayor Giuliani, accompanied by Lorne Michaels, called Saturday Night Live one of New York's great institutions. Lorne Michaels asks, "But, can we be funny?" To which Giuliani replies, "Why start now?" before opening the show with the signature line, "Live from New York, it's Saturday Night!"