Thoughts on the 9/11 documentary.
March 11, 2002 1:48 PM   Subscribe

Thoughts on the 9/11 documentary. We've already talked about would you watch. Now that it's aired, did you watch? Was it what you expected? Did it trivialize by turning horrible tragedy into heartwarming fare, or did it bring the harsh reality of 9/11 home to those who weren't there?
posted by IPLawyer (44 comments total)
I watched.
I found the pre-crash shots of the WTC heartbreaking. Later, when the firemen were being sent upstairs, I wanted to yell at them not to go, like I was watching a horror movie where I knew what was going to happen, but not exactly when.
It also served as a reminder to me of how lucky I am, how thankful I need to be to those men who brought down the plane headed for Washington. Otherwise, I would have been one of those ash-covered, shocked, helpless people milling around the crash scene.
posted by MrMoonPie at 1:55 PM on March 11, 2002

I hear that, MoonPie. I was at the LOC that day too. Saw the Pentagon burning from the cafeteria as I futilely tried to get a cell phone signal to call family in NYC before we were evacuted out of the cafeteria. Did the refugee walk in heels all the way back to my downtown office (after an intermediate stop was also shut down by a bomb scare). It was absolutely horrific, yet obviously pales in comparison to the experiences of survivors in NYC or the Pentagon. It could have been so much worse -- and almost was. My one nightmare vision stemming from that day is the mental image of the cast iron Capitol dome melting from the horrific heat of a jet-fuel fire, and the molten iron oozing all over Capitol Hill, burning me alive as I try to leave the area. Probably not scientifically accurrate, but freaks me out nonetheless.

I thought the documentary was great. They went out of their way not to get too graphic with imagery, but they pulled no punches with dialog. I found that to be an appropriate dialog. I took away from it an enormous amount of admiration and hope for mankind -- that there was so much good even in the face of so much evil.

And I can't help but thinking: I hope to God that some Hollywood type doesn't decide to turn this into made-for-TV-movie drama. But I guess if the holocaust is fair game, then 9/11: The Movie isn't too far off. I just hope they give it a few years.
posted by IPLawyer at 2:12 PM on March 11, 2002

It was over-produced : the footage was emotional enough without having to cue the music or use fade-to-blacks or voice-overs every single second. It was essentially a docu-drama. And maybe people wanted a cogent, followable narrative, making it easier to digest, but Sep.11 is one of those "unspeakable acts" that can't be packaged, edited, and wrapped up with commercials inbetween. We don't need to be told that there's disorder when there's disorder on screen. My friend said something wise, saying that if this footage had been in the hands of Nightline, it would have been a serious, thoughtful piece.

And once the documentary ended, they went straight to the local news doing a "recap" of Sep.11. Why didn't they get Dan Rather and all their top journalists to do an hour or two of straight-up serious journalism?
posted by panopticon at 2:21 PM on March 11, 2002

I'm watching firefighters milling around the lobby of the WTC when it really hits home that this isn't a re-creation, these are really the faces of the guys who are about to be killed in the stairwells when


wow, was that really a body hitting? didn't really think about how it would sound when they


how many of them are there? I only really saw a shot of a couple of bodies falling on TV that day, i wonder how many


shit, the lobby is almost empty. how long was it after the plane hit that the first tower


hit pause so i can catch my breath, OK? where's the goddamned remote?
posted by hob at 2:23 PM on March 11, 2002

They did it right. They set out to film the story of Tony the proby, and they did. And every story they told was of personal heroism and growth (including that of the brother filmmakers themselves).

One seriously questionable inclusion: the sound of bodies hitting the ground outside the broken-windowed lobby. Mentioning it should have been enough. The sound was as graphic as images would have been.

Something made clear (to me): the fire chiefs, etc. gathered at the lobby command post had no idea what to do, or what was going on. There was a lot of standing around looking worried and trying to communicate with the firefighters who had gone up the stairs. Not that they should have known what to do in an unprecedented situation. But I hope someone's thinking about what could have been done better.
posted by beagle at 2:32 PM on March 11, 2002

I gave in to curiosity and watched. I'm glad I did. Although the sounds were horrific, they really made things more real for me. I forgot how little people knew about what was happening as it happened.

The sound of the south tower falling really struck me - how powerful and fast and scary it was. The sheer size of the towers always made the collapse look slow-motion in videos I've seen before. Being under it was anyhting but slow.

It was not the gut-wrenching experience I thought it might be - it was the perfect tone, I thought. Great insights into the firemen, how they think, what they felt.
posted by kokogiak at 2:37 PM on March 11, 2002

I watched am I'm very glad I did.

I'm just not in the mood to second guess the Naudets and Hanlon -- they lived through it, I wasn't there. (Lucky, lucky, lucky...) The fact is, the images, dialog and underlying stories were so harrowing that I tuned out the rest. Was there narraration? Was there music? Whatever.

We're lucky these guys were there, we're lucky they survived, we're lucky they are decent film makers.

On Charlie Rose last Friday the Naudets said they were offerred "insane" amounts of money for the footage. I bet they were. We're lucky they didn't succumb. Waiting half a year was an incredibly tasteful, reverant thing to do.

how many of them are there? I only really saw a shot of a couple of bodies falling on TV that day, i wonder how many

Look at this way: there were so many bodies falling they felt trapped in the lobby for fear of going out the front.
posted by victors at 2:38 PM on March 11, 2002

what got to me was not the visuals, but the audio, especially the sound of people hitting the ground after they had jumped, thud after thud after thud, at which point I had to hit mute
posted by ajayb at 2:40 PM on March 11, 2002

I thought it was exceptionally well done. Not over-produced. And it brought back most of what I felt six months ago--an accomplishment.

I still don't think, however, people, including myself, have come to grips with this. I still find it hard to believe there's no more World Trade Center.
posted by ParisParamus at 2:44 PM on March 11, 2002

the fire chiefs, etc. gathered at the lobby command post had no idea what to do

I totally diagree. They were challenged but they were hardly "standing around" -- Gedeon (?) spent a lot of time on the faces of firemen and chiefs in moments of repose because those were the best shots he could get under the circumstances -- it was that or get guys running into/out of stairwells.

If anything there was too much for them to do and they were deciding what part of hell they were going to deal with next.

Sorry for cheerleading but thank god for these guys, the firemen and the film makers. They ducked but they never flinched.
posted by victors at 2:46 PM on March 11, 2002

One seriously questionable inclusion: the sound of bodies hitting the ground outside the broken-windowed lobby. Mentioning it should have been enough. The sound was as graphic as images would have been.

CBS edited out most of the crashing noise. In my view, it was a very humane way to portray what was going on.

Most terrifying for me was the knowledge gap between the firefighters inside the tower and the millions watching on TV. When the tower fell, everyone knew except the ones who needed to know the most. The best lesson from 9/11, from a public safety perspective, is the need for constant, real-time information coming in from outside the danger zone.

As much as we misalign the national newsmedia, the no-nonsense quality of their real-time broadcasting that day eased a lot of minds and gave perspective to a catastrophic sequence of events.
posted by PrinceValium at 2:51 PM on March 11, 2002

posted by ParisParamus at 2:59 PM on March 11, 2002

(I like that URL. It's a "comment symposium." Not a mailing list, not an online community, not a blog or a wiki, but a "comment symposium." I like the way that sounds. I bet George Carlin would too. "Comment ... symposium!")

One thing I really wished the documentary had touched on more was the very bad state of emergency personnel radio systems, since they spent so much time showing the firemen trying to use their radios without success, but never really talked about the true ramifications of that problem. It's not an FDNY-specific problem - cops, EMTs, firemen all over the country have the same problem - but nowhere has it ever been more obvious how dangerous the problem is. Most emergency agencies simply don't use enough frequencies, have outdated, underpowered walkie-talkies, and they generally have a sound quality at the best of times that makes an out-of-tune AM radio sound like a CD. (Not that they should carry around high-powered walkie-talkies for general use, as the constant RF signal right next to them would be dangerous (it can cause burns), but they ought to be available for shit-hits-the-fan emergencies like 9/11.

Because the sad fact is that a large number of firemen and policemen died for no other reason than that they never heard those constant "mayday, mayday" calls on their radios. They never knew they were supposed to turn around and get the hell out, so they just kept on going up the stairs.
posted by aaron at 3:00 PM on March 11, 2002

I didn't hear about this in time, and missed it last night. I'd like to see it; does anyone know of any plans for rebroadcasting?
posted by jammer at 3:03 PM on March 11, 2002

Not nearly as gut-wrenching as what we all saw on CNN. (Excepting, yes, those sounds. So loud. God.) Watching the firefighters obviously taken aback at the huge scale of what was happening, but doing their jobs anyway, brought the whole thing down to a more human scale, I felt. Made it bearable. I didn't expect that.

Also tough to sit through, somehow, was the part where the second collapse happened, with a camera and its operator on the street below ending up underneath a car as dust and debris blows by. Nothing onscreen but whirling brown dust and paper, and it seemed to go on *forever*. Sitting in my comfy house, looking at that endless dust and hearing coughing from just off-camera, I felt as if I would choke, wondered how anyone was able to breathe in that. That was an unexpectedly powerful bit of footage.

Best moment---and maybe it was just that any little bit of ordinary levity at the end of those two hours was welcome---the fireman who said with a grin, "I got home at two a.m., and climbed into the Jacuzzi with my wife... but that's another story."

I'm glad they showed this. If nothing else it seems important to understand the lengths to which firefighters go, without question, for their $30,000 a year (ish, minimum, NYC). Same for policemen & women and EMTs too. Watching last night made me proud of them all.
posted by Sapphireblue at 3:06 PM on March 11, 2002

CBS bought the rights to air it twice, so it will run again. I don't know when, though.
posted by aaron at 3:09 PM on March 11, 2002

I thought the same thing about the communications aaron - hearing that cacophony of radio chatter I kept thinking 'my god, how can anyone understand each other?' Seeing the one fire chief holding his radio up in the air for better transmission looked painfully frustrating.
posted by kokogiak at 3:14 PM on March 11, 2002

I must admit that I was surprised by the fact that I heard "fuck" and "shit" at least three times a piece. Just out of curiosity, why weren't they censored out?
posted by ookamaka at 3:28 PM on March 11, 2002

We also thought the exact same thing about the terrible quality of their communications. How many people would have survived if they knew to get out?

It was really hard though, to see faces of people I know, fathers of friends, neighbors, running towards death. I can't (nor would I like to) count the number of times my mother shouted "Oh God, that's so and so!"

On a lighter note...

"Get outta hea wit ya camera, dis ain't fuckin Disneyland!"

You gotta love New York.
posted by tomorama at 3:30 PM on March 11, 2002

I agree with panopticon about the documentary's being way too overproduced. I could have done without a lot of the background music.
But the raw footage was amazing, & did, I think, help me get a better idea of what happened, and of the unimaginable fact of the buildings' disappearance.
I no longer live in New York, but I grew up there, and knew those buildings well. Last month on a trip back I went to the ground zero viewing platform. There was really nothing to see--the debris has been almost all removed--but that nothing was intensely disturbing, given all my memories of the buildings being there.
posted by Rebis at 3:34 PM on March 11, 2002

I flinched with each of the four of five thuds of bodies falling, but the moment which sent me over the edge into tears was after the first tower fell, and the narration described how they found the body of Father Mychal Judge, who was inside the tower that was still standing (I hadn't realised that) but was killed nevertheless by flying debris. Seeing the shot later of the six firefighters carrying his body, his head raised as though he were still alive and just unable to walk, was horrifying.

I don't think I gained a single positive thing from watching the broadcast. If I could do it over again, I would've stuck with Six Feet Under and The Practice.
posted by Dreama at 3:41 PM on March 11, 2002

I didn't watch.

Do I regret it? No. For me, the descriptions here, and the static images elsewhere, are more than enough to bring back the sickness and utter helplessness I felt that day.

Will I watch if it airs again? Perhaps. To my relief, it seems that CBS handled the material well, for various definitions of well. It's certainly made me more inclined to consider viewing a repeat broadcast.
posted by digital_insomnia at 3:59 PM on March 11, 2002

Hah, I forgot about that, tomorama---just as good was the guy who'd appointed himself guard of the plane engine that landed in the street. "Gedouttaheah, you're kickin' stuff, this is evidence, whasswrongwijou."

(To explain Dreama's comment a bit for those thinking of watching whenever it's shown again [this is in the link PrinceValium supplied but I think it's worth pointing out here]: the video itself only caught Father Judge's foot as he was carried out; the shot she refers to was a still photo that was taken by a Reuters photographer. It was edited into the film. There is no video in the film of Father Judge's corpse nor any others.)
posted by Sapphireblue at 4:07 PM on March 11, 2002

Great primary document for what occured at the Trade Towers on that day, but very distracting musical score.
posted by ericrolph at 4:35 PM on March 11, 2002

For those worried about potentially disturbing imagery, don't. Remember, practically every truly disturbing image about the WTC on 9/11 - in this film, and in every still camera and video camera carried by every photojournalist on the planet - has been self-censored. There is only a single truly graphic, horrific photo that any news editor allowed to be shown to the public, at least in the United States. It is this photo of a severed hand lying in the middle of a street near the WTC immediately after the attack. It ran in the New York Daily News the next day. That's it; it's the only one. There are untold thousands of such photos in existence, probably dozens if not hundreds of incredibly graphic videotapes, but you will never be allowed to see them. You can't be trusted to handle it, you see. The news media has spoken.

(There's a difference between emotionally-stirring images and truly graphic ones. Some can't handle either. But the 9/11 documentary is only the former type. As long as you can handle those awful crash sounds, you should be able to handle the rest of the movie.)
posted by aaron at 5:01 PM on March 11, 2002

wow, i was wondering why they called it kenny4_hand, like i thought they'd identfied it, but the article is here. i thought this quote was fitting, "This was a tragedy of epic proportions and if we (newspapers) are not going to show the horrible pictures now, when will we ever do so? Sure we did get some calls and they said that they were upset. But what all of those that don't call, but are moved to do something about the situation and volunteer?"
posted by kliuless at 6:04 PM on March 11, 2002

Excellent distinction, aaron. And thank you, if that's the correct way to phrase it, for the link to the hand photo. We're so used to movie gore that, just like the shots of the towers falling, that's the primary emotional reference: this mustblame the media for self-censorship -- it's unfortunate, with the internet, that they don't disclaim some of the responsibility and let those of us who are prepared confront such things, but they're only mindful of their lowest-common-denominator audiences -- and this is a very touchy subject (for anyone, it seems, except Ted Rall).

I didn't find anything in this, though, to object to. Perhaps it was slightly overproduced, but only at moments; for the most part it still felt very raw, and just as MrMoonPie put it, my friend beside me was practically gnawing her jaw saying "Get out! It's coming down! Please get out!" (We were on the phone, live, as the first one fell.) I think for the general audience it was not overproduced; it was softened just enough for them to watch.

I thought the inclusion of the frank language of firefighters to be important, as it illustrated their emotional state. (The early shot of the Battalion Chief, leaning out a truck window, almost saying "fuckin'" and catching himself, was telling. Later there was no such self-censorship.) The emotional hug the brothers gave each other was, perhaps, more than Americans might have done, but in the circumstances entirely fitting. The relationship I have with my brother is only, I guess, okay -- but to hear these guys, working together on a project, saying things like "I would be a better brother", was affecting. It was very much their story as much as of the firefighters, especially since they lost their quarry there in the 2nd half.

If anything, the strangest aspect was how subdued it seemed. The coolness of the firefighters, the absence of shots of victims, the distant shots of panicked evacuees, the disconnect at times between events and their realization, made it a journey of a focussed mind through chaos. It wasn't the open wound, the massed emotive Eroica, that it had been talked up as. Like the firefighters who've really been through something, it didn't brag.

I almost thought, at times, it could have used a little bragging.
posted by dhartung at 6:04 PM on March 11, 2002

You know, I don't watch TV. I don't see what entertainment value this sort of programming has. The odd fascination you people seem to have with overproduced TV specials on terrorist attacks everyone has been talking about for half a year is totally foreign to me. What isn't foreign to me is the knowledge that this program would not have been broadcast if there weren't something in it for the broadcaster. If they had the decency to show ads, it's still damn good publicity for the network.

After the towers were destroyed, I went for a long walk. I was sincerely dissapointed that people did this sort of thing to eachother. When I went back home, I found that nobody seemed too concerned, or in conflict, or in thought. They were just afraid. There were no classes and people tried to enjoy themselves. I've said it before and I'll say it again - there are scant few Americans who can say they are proud to hail from the US. Most of us are simply glad, and seeing cellophane wrapped slaughter on the television just makes us more glad. The real tragedy here is that nobody has learned anything from these events. We're the same type of worthless we've always been.
posted by Settle at 6:42 PM on March 11, 2002

Settle, I'm not sure whether you're misconstruing or misrepresenting the things that have been written in this thread. I don't think many people were watching for "entertainment value". I watched the film, and I came away with a greater understanding of what it means to have been there that day. I empathized with these men who died doing an impossible job. I wept for them and for their families. Again. That's called education.
posted by Optamystic at 7:00 PM on March 11, 2002

You know, I don't watch TV.

The odd fascination you people seem to have with overproduced TV specials on terrorist attacks everyone has been talking about for half a year is totally foreign to me.

We're the same type of worthless we've always been.

I am glad that you have superior morals and don't watch TV. I am glad you view people as "you people". I am glad you view us as "worthless". You find it sad that people can do something like that to each other, yet you foster the same feelings in your heart. I am glad you are so fucking cool, detatched and perfect. Maybe you can show us all the way, Ghandi.

I thought it was done well. Religion seems to be behind so much evil.
posted by zenhues at 7:56 PM on March 11, 2002

It was essentially a docu-drama.
Yeah, but better than that 'Laramie Project' fiasco. GOD! what an awful piece of crap was THAT! This seemed real and acceptable by comparison.
posted by HTuttle at 8:17 PM on March 11, 2002

there are scant few Americans who can say they are proud to hail from the US.

posted by aaron at 8:21 PM on March 11, 2002

I don't get it. I understand the heroism of the fireman and the cops, and the enormity of the buildings' collapse, but I keep feeling that the approximately 3000 people who died there different versions of horrific deaths are simply discounted, disregarded, forgotten, erased, simply deleted from our consciousness and memory because they died a graphically horrifying death. That photo of a hand is the reality to me. I have one photo I downloaded I forgot from where showing with a telephoto the upper floors of one of the towers the windows jammed full of people hanging out to catch some air, or hoping to be rescued, quite recognizably people in shirtsleeves, dresses, some already in the air falling. This picture is the reality I pay homage to. It breaks me up, my emphaty and sorrow is palpable, but it is they I want to look at even torn to pieces and imagine their lives and their fears, and their last minutes, and let my thoughts and actions directed by their memories, by the pity for their end.
posted by semmi at 8:22 PM on March 11, 2002

Entertainment value? It's not like we all popped popcorn and played drinking games (Do a shot for every splat!!!).

And how do you know that the people around you weren't concerned, in conflict, or in thought? Why is initial shock/fear a reprehensible reaction to unspeakable tragedy? For that matter, if you didn't watch it, how do you know it was overproduced and why do you feel compelled to insult the intelligence and moral standing of those who did watch? Your affected moral superiority is just the thin m&m shell hiding a melty judgmental interior.

Ahh, the arrogance of youth. Perhaps by the time your ten year reunion rolls around you'll see what a self-centered know-it-all you were back in your campus days. Or at least, what a troll you were in your MeFi days.
posted by IPLawyer at 8:30 PM on March 11, 2002

Did I say that out loud? Sorry, usually I have a better filter in place.
posted by IPLawyer at 8:42 PM on March 11, 2002

Ahh, the arrogance of youth.
Did I say that out loud?

Yes, you did...and thanks!
posted by HTuttle at 9:15 PM on March 11, 2002

I'm going to sound like a ghoul, I realize...but, I felt the documentary was too antiseptic. I find what Aaron wrote very interesting, because I've felt this way about all the 9/11 footage. We're (mostly) all adults, and I think we can handle real, uncensored images of what occured that day.

I remember seeing hours of footage of the #7 bulding falling, and only one image of people falling from the towers. Again, there's no way I can avoid seeming creepy and ghoulish writing stuff like this, but the people falling from the WTC was a far more significant event, to me, than an empty building collapsing. Clearly the powers that be felt that we weren't mature enough to handle such images. I resent that.

Another aspect of the video that struck me was how futile the plan seemed even had the towers not collapsed. Those guys were expected to walk up 80 flights of stairs, carrying who know how much weight, and still be effective? Scary that that was basically the best option available.
posted by Doug at 11:19 PM on March 11, 2002

Yeah, that puts the finger on it. The media shows the buildings collapsing so often, since they can't show the bodies, and it's easy to get the unconscious impression that 9/11 was about the buildings rather than the people who died in them.
posted by kindall at 11:29 PM on March 11, 2002

Ookamaka: Would it seem right to censor some of the last words of these people? That's probably what the producers thought too.
posted by vbfg at 11:30 PM on March 11, 2002

They shouldn't have called it 9/11. That's a predictably weak title, and means no one will be able to discuss the documentary from now on without referring to it as "9/11.. you know that documentary about the proby." I also didn't think the movie that came out last year which was called Pearl Harbor deserved that title. It was basically a romance that used Pearl Harbor as a backdrop. Titanic was also mistitled for similar reasons.

They should have called the documentary White Cloud because ultimately that's what it was about. First the white cloud proby who waited all summer for his first fire, and then the incredibly powerful white cloud that blanketed lower Manhattan on that fateful day. Those documentarians wanted their fire for their proby. They got it in spades. Be careful what you ask for, that's the message I got from it.

I watched it, and was impressed with the tasteful balance between sensationalism and avoiding doing it altogether. Except for the last fifteen minutes, the entire documentary was professional and respectful to the material. I especially liked how they didn't censor the voices of the firefighters. It was kept to a respectful minimum, but when someone said "fuck" they left it in. FCC be damned: they were living in hell that day and using expletitives was completely substantiated under the circumstances, perhaps moreso than any other time in human history.

The last fifteen minutes were an attempt to drive the point home, with pictures of all the lost firefighters resting on the American flag, and sappy music playing over it all. It was like they stuck my nose in it. Had they knocked that last fifteen minutes off, it would have been the best documentary I've ever seen. Historically relative, enlightening, and heartwrenching.

As for whether or not the focus of the documentary centering on the firefighters and not the lost thousands who were up in the tower, that was necessary, because the material the cameramen shot was not of those lost, but of those trying to save those lost, some of which were also taken from us. We'll never know what happened up there. It was a dark cloud that loomed over the entire last half of the documentary. They didn't need to bring attention to it. When we heard the dead bodies falling just outside, we knew. We know what it meant. They didn't have to tell us.

Semmi: "I have one photo I downloaded I forgot from where showing with a telephoto the upper floors of one of the towers the windows jammed full of people hanging out to catch some air, or hoping to be rescued, quite recognizably people in shirtsleeves, dresses, some already in the air falling."

That description is actually more disturbing to me than watching the documentary. I hadn't thought about it this way before but it's possible some of those people who fell didn't jump of their own accord. If the fire in the upper stories was so powerful it eventually caused the towers to fall, it means there was little to no airflow in those upper stories, which means in order to avoid asphyxiation, some people broke windows to get air in there, which only gave the fire somewhere to go - thus increasing the fire and making things worse. So the people trapped up there ended up pushing themselves up against the broken windows all fighting to breathe... and some of those people may have been accidently pushed out in the panic.

It's probably best we'll never have a documentary about that. There's some things we just don't need to know for certain.
posted by ZachsMind at 5:27 AM on March 12, 2002

Anyone know of any plans to show it in the UK at any point?
The nearest we've had to it was a documentary last week on the mechanics of why the towers collapsed, with interviews with the original architects, firefighters & survivors.
posted by cashmein at 5:49 AM on March 12, 2002

ZachsMind, "When we heard the dead bodies falling just outside, we knew. We know what it meant."
"It's probably best we'll never have a documentary about that. There's some things we just don't need to know for certain."

That's just it, I for one want to have more contact with those who died there than a "falling body". Stark reality, to me, is more comforting in it's visceral disturbance than neatly wrapped packaging of psychological manipulation. To deal with reality, one has to have a perception of it.

The story of human determination to follow the dictates of a job under duress is a worthwile narrative. But, but.......the slaying of innocents is something that grieving needs to face in its true horror, to be able to go on whole.
posted by semmi at 8:00 AM on March 12, 2002

Stark reality, to me, is more comforting in it's visceral disturbance than neatly wrapped packaging of psychological manipulation.

Agreed. I know a lot of people that consider those photos of the people hanging out the windows 85 stories above the ground to be the epitome of stomach-churning disturbing imagery of that day. But to me it isn't at all. It's an emotion-stirring photo, but there's nothing inherently graphic about it. (I often wonder how people would feel about those photos now if those people had ended up being rescued.) Emotionally-touching photos are not the same as graphic photos showing the true final results of what these savages did to them And the news media will never allow us to see those final results. They decide, we consume. And that, in the end, has made our national anger, strong as it is, somewhat lesser than it would be if we had been allowed to truly see the WHOLE story.

I can even understand the editors' collective desire not to simply run graphic photos on the air, or on the front page of the papers, where a lot of readers and viewers really would barrage them with complaints. But: 1) they could have put them online, with major disclaimers on the front pages of their web sites that one would have to pass through before reaching that area. 2) Given the enormity of the event, the utter paradigm shift this single incident caused, I don't believe it's the editors' decision to make. Beyond a certain level of heinousness, it's not up to the media to make the decisions; the only honorable thing to do is to lay it ALL out on the table, for all to see if they wish. 9/11 is not an event that should be SANITIZED.
posted by aaron at 2:14 PM on March 12, 2002

"9/11," the documentary, thrilled me. (And it's quite appropriately named as such for several reasons, IMO, one of the most salient being how it reminds us that the FDNY faces possibilities like this one every damn day -- and yet it never even occurs to them to shrink from whatever is thrown their way. Quite the opposite, in fact.)

I say "thrilled" because it was life-affirming to the max. My heart grew so much from watching it -- like the Grinch's did, when he learned the meaning of Christmas! -- that I rewound it and watched it a second time through immediately after the live screening. (Minus the "commercials" and the extra-cheese "Danny Boy" ending, that is.)

I loved how authentic it showed the bond to be between these brave men -- both before and after Sept. 11. And the way it displayed their workaday heroism in such a down-to-earth manner was hugely inspiring.

The thing that stays with me most: the Naudet brothers' reunion later that afternoon. How beautiful! I just wept.

I think the film's principal genius was in showing everything exclusively from the perspective of the FDNY men as they did their jobs. Absent the "big picture," they acted on what they did know, and gave it their all. And in keeping with the FDNY POV, wasn't it refreshing that politics were utterly absent from this presentation? No mention of who brought on the attacks or why -- just the FDNY's response.

I'm welling up just thinking about it again -- not out of sadness, but because I find their example so heartening.

The Naudets get high marks for their core documentary, and CBS gets 'em, too, for airing it in the first place -- although the network also gets a few demerits for packaging the show in such a "Hey, let's go to Wal-Mart!" sorta way (e.g., the aforementioned tacked-on cheesy ending with the still photos and music, which tried too hard to pull at people's heartstrings, so unlike the way the preceding footage allowed the events unfolding onscreen to speak largely for themselves; and the way-too-hurried credits at the very end that gave short shrift to the filmmakers, if you ask me).

Two random comments on comments: ZachsMind, the sound of bodies striking... well, whatever exactly it was that they were striking -- had to be explained to me, just as it had to be explained to a helluva lot of the firefighters who were there in that lobby.

And Settle, don't presume to speak for me. I've learned volumes from the events that have transpired during the past six months. But then, I'm open to learning... by doing things like watching shows like this one.
posted by verdezza at 9:37 PM on March 12, 2002

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