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From the Flames     

There were thousands of little things, the memorabilia that was important and meaningful to me, even if they weren’t objectively valuable

As told to Rivka Streicher by Nachum Segal

March 27, 2022 was a Sunday, not a workday. I was home when I got the call.

“The studio’s on fire.”


My studio on Grand Street in Lower Manhattan was the main headquarters of the Nachum Segal Network, where we streamed JM in the AM every morning for the last 20 years. In that 330-square-meter space, I’d nurtured and grown my 39-year career. It housed what I’d built over decades. The studio was everything.

Most of it was consumed by the fire.

When the fire marshals finally let us enter the building again, my family gathered on the sidewalk outside. The afternoon was breezy and mild, like no fire ever happened. My children insisted that I wait outside while they went in first. I didn’t argue — I was still getting over the shock. I couldn’t yet face the loss.

I sat in the lobby while my children went up to the second floor. One by one, they started coming down to where I was waiting, carrying different items for me to examine.

Most of it was damaged beyond repair, if not from fire, then from water. There was the big stuff, the expensive stuff, like the furniture and the machinery — different machines to play music, headphone amps, remote equipment to broadcast in other locations, and the main broadcast board which I had used for 20 years and was, like a good friend, dear to me.

And then there were thousands of little things, the memorabilia that was important and meaningful to me, even if they weren’t objectively valuable.

Like the snow globe collection. We had this thing where we’d buy snow globes from any place we broadcasted from. We’d been to cities all over the States, we’d broadcasted from Houston after the flooding, and from Pittsburgh after the Tree of Life attack and from Paris, Venice, and Jerusalem. Those snow globes were a testament to the trips.

And the walls! The walls of the studio were covered in pictures and mementos showcasing the pride of my career and my personal life over almost four decades. The walls told our story.


There was the picture I had of former National Security Advisor John Bolton on the phone. My mother was a big fan of Bolton, and I was once emceeing an event where Bolton was the guest speaker. I asked him, “Would you please speak to my mother?” and he took the phone and he spoke to her. I loved that picture. Only I knew why it was significant, that it wasn’t just a picture of Bolton on the phone, that he was actually talking with my mother.

There was the article on the wall from a New York daily newspaper about the birth of our triplets 24 years ago.

There was a special commemoration I got when I was ringmaster of a circus in Madison Square Garden on Chol Hamoed Pesach.

There were several pictures of me from different years davening at the Isaiah Wall, across from the United Nations at Tishah B’Av Minchah services, which we did to bring awareness of Jewish communities that were in danger around the world.

There was a special Yankees uniform that was created for us.

There was the announcement of my father’s passing — it was high profile, because my elderly father went missing after we’d been celebrating the 25th anniversary of my radio show on the air. There was a raging storm and nobody could find him. It was only the next day that he was found, in his car, floating in a river in New Jersey. The announcement of his death was on the wall.

Pictures, articles, posters, flashed in front of my eyes like strobe lights. I could only sit there, shaking my head. What happened to the walls? I thought. But I didn’t even have to ask.

Suddenly, a tap on my shoulder.

It was one of the fire marshals. He sat down next to me and told me exactly how the fire had started, and where: right near my desk, right where I sat every workday. My throat constricted. What if it had been a regular workday? The miracle wasn’t lost on me. Hashem had exacted His wrath on eitzim v’avanim. No one had been at the studio on Sunday; no one had gotten hurt.

I was thinking about what the fire marshal had told me, and it occurred to me that maybe something that was far from where the fire originated might have survived the blaze. I told my children to look in the bookcase in the far corner. I was hoping against hope that there might be some chance…

And from the debris upstairs they emerged with my scrapbook collection, volume by volume. They brought them downstairs, all 20 volumes. That set of scrapbooks chronicled my career since 1983. In it are the articles, flyers, features, concert programs, playbills, pictures, and references to my show and to the network.


I opened the first scrapbook. It had a little soot on it, but it was otherwise intact. I leafed through the pages, looking at the pictures and clippings from the earliest days of my career. I looked through the second book, and the third. They were good, all good. It was heartwarming, a small, deeply meaningful gift on a day of so much loss.

I had that, I had it all. There was a bit of residue and soot in the folders, and later, my wife, bless her, would offer to go through the set, volume by volume, and replace the loose leafs in the files.

Down in that smoky lobby, I hugged the volumes to myself.

We’d lost the walls, the machinery, the snow globes, but we had the scrapbooks, and for that I was grateful.

Nachum Segal is the host of JM in the AM, Jewish Moments in the Morning. He lives in New York, New York.


(Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 929)

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