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'You're On Live Television': Today Show Surprises NY Man On National Good Neighbor Day

Today contributor Donna Farizan surprises longtime Rensselaer resident Ernie Mann at his home on live TV Wednesday, Sept. 28.
Today contributor Donna Farizan surprises longtime Rensselaer resident Ernie Mann at his home on live TV Wednesday, Sept. 28. Photo Credit: NBC/Today

An upstate New York man got the surprise of a lifetime when he answered a knock at the door and found himself on live, national television.

Rensselaer County resident Ernie Mann, age 75, opened the door to his City of Rensselaer home Wednesday morning, Sept. 28, and was shocked to find a camera crew from the Today show accompanied by two dozen cheering neighbors.

Moments before the big surprise, Today correspondent Donna Farizan explained to viewers that Mann’s longtime friend, Amy Mooney, had nominated him for National Good Neighbor Day.

Farizan then proceeded to knock on Mann’s front door as the crowd of neighbors waited on his lawn, many holding posters and balloons. Some also donned fake mustaches as an ode to the lifelong Rensselaer County resident.

“Hi Ernie. Come on out. I’m Donna from the Today show and you are live,” Farizan said when Mann opened his door. 

“You can waive hi to Hoda (Kotb) and Jenna (Bush Hager) and millions of Americans,” she continued.

Farizan then asked Mann what was going through his mind, to which the stunned man replied, “If I had any influence on anything I’d ask them if they’d please throw some fastballs to (Yankees outfielder) Aaron Judge.”

Mann was then given a set of headphones to listen to a tribute package the show had prepared with Mooney explaining why she had nominated him.

“He’s not only a phenomenal neighbor, but a true hero in our community,” Mooney said in the clip.

She went on to say that Mann was a teacher with the Rensselaer City School District for 33 years before retiring. He was also a volunteer firefighter and served as fire chief.

Mooney also revealed that Mann lost his wife, Jan, to ovarian cancer.

The show then played a special video message from Yankees pitcher, Nestor Cortes Jr., before Farizan surprised him again with Yankees swag and four game tickets.

Before tossing back to the Today show hosts, Farizan asked Mann if he had any advice for people to become a better neighbor.

“Just look out for each other. If you see somebody is up against it, try to help them a little bit,” he said. 

“Do it quietly. You don’t have to make a big fuss. And if people were nicer to each other. It’s easy to do.”

Click here to watch the full video from the Today show

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