By Stephen M. Silverman
Updated September 18, 2001 08:06 AM

The normally cool CBS news anchor Dan Rather momentarily lost it on “Late Show” Monday night, David Letterman’s first broadcast since last Tuesday’s siege on America. The usually irreverent Letterman presented a muffled self Monday night and eschewed his opening monologue and Top 10 list. Came his turn to sit at the desk with Dave, Rather (who has been putting in 15-hour days since TV turned its attention to the devastation in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania that was perpetrated last Tuesday) visibly choked up while he spoke about the attacks. Seeking to calm Rather, an uncharacteristically compassionate Letterman placed a hand on Rather’s arm and said, “I know you’re a great newsman, Dan, but you’re also a human being.” As TV networks — and audiences — are slowly getting their feet wet in returning to regular programming, the country looked to a host of escapist movies, videotapes and books to deal with the events of the past week. Feel-good film “Hardball,” about a gambler (Keanu Reeves) who redeems himself as the coach of a little league baseball team, was the nation’s No. 1 movie. Video renters focused on new releases such as thriller, “Hannibal,” and book retailers reported a surge in sales of titles focused on New York City, reports the Associated Press. At the movie box office, the top 12 films pulled in $54 million, up 43% from the same weekend last year, according to box office tracker Exhibitor Relations Inc., indicating a desire for escape.