The tenth anniversary of 9/11 is just a few days away, and the networks and cable channels have been airing dozens of documentaries, interviews, and retrospectives in the days leading up to it. I absolutely understand those who don’t want to watch any of this, either because they have a connection to that day and don’t want to re-live it, or just because they find it to be too painful. But for those that do want to tune in to at least a few programs, here are my recommendations:
CNN PRESENTS: FOOTNOTES OF 9/11 We have heard the stories about the passengers of Flight 93, the firefighters who escaped the World Trade Center, the people who survived the Pentagon attack. This show digs deeper to share the experiences of those who played a part in the day’s events in a different way: the ticket agents who checked in the hijackers, the air traffic controllers who struggled to understand what was going on, and the jet fighter captain who was told he might have to shoot down a commercial airplane. All of these people testified before the 9/11 Commission, and are listed as footnotes in the back of the book. It was fascinating to find out how they felt that day, and how they coped, especially the man who remembered checking in one of the hijackers, even though he was suspicious of him.
I SURVIVED… This show usually features people who have survived brutal attacks, sudden medical problems, accidents, and more, so it’s never for the faint of heart. The special 9/11 version is the same. Several survivors from New York City and Washington share in brutal detail what they went through that day, what they were feeling, and how they got the strength to escape. One of the most harrowing tales was of a man trapped in an elevator at the World Trade Center. Again, this isn’t recommended for those who have anxiety or who don’t want to hear these excruciating memories.
9/11: Heroes of the 88th Floor It’s hard to remember that at one time, no one knew what was going on. We’ve picked apart everything from 9/11 since the day, but 20 minutes after the attacks, people inside the World Trade Center had no idea where to go and what to do. This show features re-enactments and interviews with survivors, who share how frantic and confusing the time was. It was also “semi-insane,” as one man recalled; his receptionist was not at her station, but the phones were ringing off the hook, so he sat down and took over her job. It was through one of those phone calls that he realized he had to get out of there, no matter what. We also learn how Frank De Martini and Pablo Ortiz, two men who worked at the WTC, saved countless lives, sweeping through and clearing out several floors, ushering workers to safety 88 floors below. They were still searching for others to save when the towers fell.
Although obviously these shows have already aired, I know that they will all be repeated before Sunday. Check your local listings for times. You might also be able to catch them On Demand, or online.
It was odd watching one of these shows with my niece, who was born in December 2001. She’s never lived in a world without a color coded terror alert. She’ll never be able to visit the pilots in the cockpit of an airplane, like I did when I was young. She won’t get to grow up knowing one of her mother’s best friends, who died after returning from Afghanistan with a bizarre, cancer-like illness. It all makes me very sad.
To everyone who lost someone or who was affected that day, I’ll be thinking of you Sunday, just as I was thinking about you ten years ago. xo