Monday, September 11, 2006

Five Years Later: Today's Thoughts

Not like you can miss it.

Today, of course, is the 5th anniversary of the Attack on American Soil, and I've just finished watching ABC's behemoth "Path to 9/11", with 2 hours and 45 minutes last night, plus 2 1/2 hours tonight (not to mention a twenty minute speech from the Prez right in the middle of it). There were no commercials--I think that was because no one would sponsor it.

First, I have a lot I want to say... I have my thoughts on Clinton sending his lawyers to ABC to block airing the movie because he didn't like how he was portrayed, and there are thoughts on what went wrong and how stupid our government--Dubya included--can be...

...but I'll hold it for later. Not today. No politics today. Just thoughts on five years ago.

I've told the story before, but I'm sure I have a lot of new readers, at least five more now, so I'll share my little tale... I was working at Oldies 106.9 (first The Point, then The Eagle) with Rob & Shannon, who are now working at Magic 96. I was an intern producer, learning the ropes of the board and such, and we had just finished discussing old record albums with some guy from San Francisco (found out my King & I soundtrack vinyl record is worth about $8), when Ericka Woode, also then at Oldies 106.9 now back with Magic 96, called in and said "Hey guys... turn on the television. The World Trade Center is on fire."

We turned it on, and sure enough, there is one of the largest buildings in the world with smoke billowing out of the one of the top floors. Needless to say, no one was prepared for the plane that came along a few minutes later, crashing into Tower 2, and of course, what followed that morning. I won't get into all of it, because if you've watched any tv today, you've relived it already--and you should. I think a problem we are having in this country is we don't see images anymore. We don't see what happened, because "its too horrible... we need to heal... we need to not see those terrible things", while I contend that sometimes--maybe not often, maybe not all the time--but just sometimes, we need to be reminded what happened, why we are at war and what we went through.

That's all I will say about that, at least for now. What I do want to do, though, is give you some of my favorite 9/11 tributes. Entertainment Weekly did something on their page today, so I thought I would echo. Here are a few videos, books, shows and other things that I have really found introspective, informing, and just great.

"In Memoriam" on HBO. This is an amazing documentary. It chronicles the events as they happen, following Mayor Guiliani that morning as he, like the rest of the world, begins to realize how big the events are. Its pulled from 100+ sources, like audio, video, phots and such. Perhpas the most gut-wretching scene is the unknown man who is hanging out one of the top floors of the WTC. The fire is raging about 20 stories below him, and he's just waving a white towel, awaiting rescue. And the NYFD can do nothing, and they know it.

In one shot from a helicopter, you see a tower collapsing. The pilot is just shouting "It's gone! It's gone! HO-LY CRAP!!". Because its on HBO, you can already know some of the things you are see are very, very disturbing... and very, very real.

"United 93". Never has a movie pumped me up and ticked me off at the same time. This film is brilliant. I went to see it last April when it came out, all by myself, because I knew I couldn't watch it with anyone, not even Stephanie. It deals almost exclusively with United 93, and its passengers that took back the plane (crashing in Shanksville, PA), and the FAA. Some of the air traffic controllers and administrators actually play themselves, and even though you know the outcome, you are still just as shocked as everyone slowly discovers what is going on around them. And in one thing you've not seen, you see the terror in the terrorists eyes... they believe in what they are doing, but then again, they are still scared, especially when the passengers stage an uprising.

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You know the ending, but you get goosebumps anyway

And in a funny moment, if you can find one, one single passengers begs the other passengers to just sit, and perhaps talk to the hijackers, to understand whats going on... a total "just sit back and they'll leave us along" mentality. The funny part? The guy is French.

102 Minutes by Jim Dwyer and Kevin Flynn... chronicles the 102 minutes that transpired between Tower 1 being hit, then it falling (Tower 2 was the 2nd to be hit, but the 1st to fall). It gives first person accounts of everyone from business people to police, fire and port authority officers, and great stories of survival, with heartbreaking stories of loss. One story that sticks out is Ed Beyua, who was confined to a wheelchair from a pre-existing medical condition, and was working on the 27th floor with his friend Abe. Abe could have left at any time... but stayed with his friend Ed. Because the elevators were down, there was no way for Ed to get out. They both died when the tower collapsed.

It gives you history of the towers, good and bad, and some of the problems that existed between the NYPD and the NYFD which was magnified with 9/11. There is a list in the back of people, people accounted for in the book that perished somehow in the towers, or in Tower 7, the Marriott hotel in between 1 and 2. Everytime I read a new name, I would flip to the back to see if they made it. Sometimes they did... sometimes they didn't, and when they didn't, you would read on to determine how they died. Sometimes in the blaze. Sometimes from jumping. Sometimes you'd read their last phone call to their loved one. While its an easy read, its not a breezy read.

"The Path to 9/11", on ABC. It should be available on iTunes in the very near future. Watched part 1 last night, part 2 tonight, and I gotta tell ya... its pretty good. To keep from playing politics, I'll only say thing... ABC has always contended this is a "dramatization of events, based on the 9/11 commission report, interviews and some parts have been fictionalized." And the left went nuts, because this movie does not portray the Clinton administration in a very good light.

The fact that NYTimes hated it, Washington Post said it was a factual mess and Clinton sued ABC to keep from airing it proves that you should see it. Yes, much of it was fictionalized... but the parts where we had chances to catch and/or kill bin Laden, but didn't due to the bumbling of Clinton's guys... yeah, that happened. The movie only shows it happening two or three times. It actually happened about 8 to 10 times. Not kidding.

Even if you don't agree with my assessment of Clinton, what the movie truly does is put the blame where it really belongs--on the terrorists. They are evil men who's only passion it to kill Americans because "its God's will", and that is truly frightening. And frighteningly true.

Of course, its okay to make a film called "Death of a President", where President Bush is assassinated--that's art--but don't you dare question the Clinton administration. That's hate speech. Wait, I'm talking politics...

"Where Were You When the World Stopped Turning?" by Alan Jackson. It was one of the country music award shows, and Alan Jackson was slated to perform. I think it was October. He sat on a stool with his acoustic guitar, and sang this simple song. And it was moving. What I liked about it is that it pretty much represented everyone--it wasn't vengeful, it wasn't angry... it was just a ballad asking "Where were you?". Because we all know.

David Letterman's Monologue. In the first "Late Show with David Letterman" after the attacks, he quietly asks for our patience and indulgence as he starts just... well, talking out loud, really. It's known he's a liberal, but not this night. This night, he's a New Yorker, an American and he's upset and grieving. And I grieved with him.

and finally...

The Amazing Spiderman, issue #36. Commonly known as The World Trade Center issue, it's Marvel's response to the attack. They just stopped a cliffhanger storyline from #35 (they pick it back up in #37) and this issue was done in about a week. It shows Spiderman, perched atop a building, head in hands, overlooking the flaming rubble of both towers. He simply says one word: "...God..."

As he lands on the street to help, one woman screams at him "Where were you? How could you this happen?" And in just an instant, the powerful Spiderman is just like the rest of us... helpless to understand. And as Spiderman holds a little boy who sees his father being pulled from the rubble, dead, you feel helpless to do anything.

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Even the cover, just plain black, is haunting

You see heroes like Captain American moving rubble, Daredevil pulling out survivors and Wolverine (wearing a FDNY hat) slicing through steel and wood, all ending witha tribute to the real heroes, the FDNY, NYPD and NYPA... I have two copies of this, one to save, one to read. Maybe it's just a little boy's silly comic book, but this one issue is more powerful than most 9/11 tributes that I've ever seen.

Coming Wednesday: Some of my best friends answer the question "Where were you on 9/11?"

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