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all my dreams will warm and sweeter be

by mg at 10:45 PM on March 11, 2002

Today is the six-month anniversary of 9/11.

Iím sure everyone has something to say about this. You might be sick of hearing about it by now, and I seriously considered not mentioning anything about it at all.

But then I watched the special on CBS last night.

Iíd didnít want to watching. In fact, for the last few weeks, I repeatedly said I wasnít going to watch. Like most people, I thought itíd be exploitive and disingenuous. I imagined any handling of the tragedy would be wholly inadequate to express the pure emotional impact of what really happened. I imagined it would be nothing more than a your typical ďa very specialÖĒ sitcom episode; big on show, small on substance.

But I was wrong. Sure, the special wasnít perfect. But it was real.

For those of you who may not have heard about it, a pair of French documentary film-makers were following a young fire-fighter during his 9-month probation period between leaving the academy and ďbecoming a man.Ē This station, Engine 7, Ladder 1, was located just a few block from the World Trade Center (and is certainly the fire-house from my dreams).

The filming schedule just happened to fall during the morning of September 11th. The film-makers shot the engine company responding at the scene, trying their best to help, flee when the buildings came down, wait as they learned which of their brothers made it out alive, and return to the site to rescue the survivors who just werenít there.

It is so easy to lose site of exactly what happened on September 11th. Six months later, the World Trade Center and Pentagon attacks are never even mentioned. Even as the ďWar on TerrorismĒ rolls on, the horrible events that started it all not only arenít headline news, they hardly make it into the story.

It is impossible to get your mind around how tremendous September 11th was. Iíve thought about this a lot, at the time, and every day since. Yet, not until last night did I realize this fact: when you see the towers collapsing, there were people still inside the buildings.

I am so used to seeing footage of buildings being brought down for new construction. I am so trained to think that those building are empty, that those watching are safely standing out of harms way. But, when you see the images of the Towers collapsing, there are thousands of people inside. As the buildings pancake in upon themselves, people are dying.

Iíve seen the video of the Towers collapsing hundreds of times. Yet, as simple a fact never occurred to me. I donít know why, but that it just never consciously hit me before. As sad as it may be that those beautiful buildings were destroyed, it was always so much easier to think that they were empty because it is so incomprehensible to think that so many people died in a single instant.

And that was the real reason I didnít want to watch the special. As a New Yorker, it is impossible to have not been somehow directly affected. The rest of the country, and the rest of the world may not have been as connected, but watching those firefighters- real people- who bravely doing their jobs, or understandably running away, crying, worrying, frustrated, just makes this completely unimaginable story tangible.

This is one of those moments in history that there can never be enough stories told. There are hundreds (if not thousands) of hours of raw footage, both from the French film makers, news outlets, and ordinary citizens. They should run that footage 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. We should never be allowed to forget what happened. Never forget all the lives that ended or were changed forever on a single day.

comments (5)

i wish i'd watched that.

the hardest images for me to watch (and i still go looking around the internet at them from time to time) are the ones just before impact -- the plane not a hundred feet from the building, both building and plane still whole, everybody still alive, in the last possible second.

six months, and we've put much of the horror out of our daily thoughts, for the most part, but i get this strange feeling that there's a bit of Post Traumatic Stress going around, that in some ways there are parts of this that we are just now absorbing.

i remember thinking, that morning, god, there are going to be so many stories from this day.

by kd at March 11, 2002 11:22 PM

i watched it and was very relieved that it was done so honestly, without exploitation. and i was so happy when the young firefighter tony turned up alive!

yes, it's very important to never forget. i want to hear and read every story, every experience, to help me try to understand what it was like for all the people who were affected.

mg, do you think maybe your depression lately might be related to this? traumatic stress syndrome? i'm serious - think about it.

by lavonne at March 12, 2002 12:08 PM

It was so hard being away from home. Nobody here really understood the magnitude of what happened, and when I showed up for classes that day everyone on campus was laughing as usual. Not a single professor mentioned it in class, while at my old college classes were cancelled completely so students could discuss the attack. I walked around for weeks in a daze, and people had the nerve to ask me what was bothering me. I would've given anything to be home.

by westernexposure at March 12, 2002 4:14 PM

Hmm, I'm glad to hear you say that. I didn't watch it -- I was already having a weird day with all the TV anniversary coverage -- but now I almost wish I had. If it helps people get things together intellectually or emotionally, it can't be bad.

by Choire at March 12, 2002 6:06 PM

good post, mg.

it's very odd that some places were so unaffected by it. perhaps it's just that i'm hypersensitive, but it messed me pretty good all the way in Iowa.

by mrh at March 12, 2002 9:52 PM

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