Did you see the documentary 9/11
It was so controversial that in the days before its broadcast, my e-mail was crammed with arts organizations wanting me to take part in web chats about whether or not the film should have been aired.
As a matter of fact, I’m invited to one tonight.
So I figured if this flick was stirring up so much debate it would be graphic as hell: blood, gore the whole shebang.
But it wasn’t.
At least not to me.
They must have edited it mercilessly, because they managed to film the destruction of the towers inside and out without showing the multitude of broken people that were all around them.
There was the heart-wrenching, horrific sound of the jumpers landing on the awning, but mostly the horribly graphic images where what they told you they were not filming.
“There are two people over here completely on fire, but I will not film them.”
I understand some of the controversy was over filming people who are now among the dead, so perhaps I do not have the right to comment here, but I can tell you how grateful I was to see the clip of Father Judge. There he was, surveying the situation with his fatherly concern. I never knew the man, except from his photos, but immediately after it was too late, I felt like I wanted to know him. Now, at least, I have been given this brief peek into what he must have felt like that morning. His expression said it all.
He was trying to keep it together while slowly realizing the magnitude of what was happening around him. He was preparing to inspire while praying for inspiration.
Of course, it was agonizing to watch these brave men, milling about, waiting for orders, setting up their command post, heading up the stairs, all the while knowing they had to get out; the building was coming down.
That’s how it was that day. No one, NO ONE expected those towers to come down. No one I know, anyway.
I was up there photographing them on my roof, not to watch them collapse but to watch what I felt was going to be an amazing feat; the putting out of those two horrible towers of flames, so high up in the sky.
I guess it’s silly to say, but I was expecting to see helicopters dropping water.
I don’t think the reality of what happened dawned on anyone, not the firefighters or New York, until the next day.
The camera really captured it, that terrible moment when the men saw for the very first time, what was left of the World Trade Center. Their dulled ,shocked faces said it all. Simply put, their entire world, and ours, had been completely altered.
There are no words to really describe the visions that unfolded from that first plane hitting, to the towers collapsing, to the New Yorkers in terror, the people preferring to jump than to burn, the smoldering remnants of what were thousands of lives, but I do feel that this documentary, respectfully and almost kindly managed to get these things across.
My apologies to the people who lost loved ones and had personal issues with the airing of this film. I do not pretend to understand your pain and I won’t dishonor it by commenting further on your position.
I watched this documentary and cried a bit here and there and then I felt an eerie calm set in. Oddly enough, the night before I had a terrible nightmare. I was running as the Empire State Building was falling toward me. No matter how fast I ran, it kept coming, crashing down bit by bit just a few feet from me. I was still running as I woke up.
But the night I watched the documentary, I slept soundly. I felt validated somehow, almost like a secret I’d been carrying around had been let out .
My girlfriend called just moments after the film ended to tell me she loved me, and I know what she really meant -- that with all my efforts to convey to her what it looked like down there, she’d never grasped it fully until now.
There’s a gallery in my neighborhood, The Bolivar Arellano Gallery. They have a long-running exhibit up
of the photographs taken by photographers of New York’s many daily papers. These photos, some of which were published, some were far, far to intense to publish are an uncensored, truly graphic portrayal of everything that film did not show.
What the people looked like jumping (they looked like angels).
What they looked like when they landed.
What the survivors looked like, half their clothes burnt off, their skin blistered and red.
There is a warning on the door about the graphic nature of what you are about to see.
I go to this gallery often. I think I’ve been there six times now. They’ve only added something new once, but I like going there. I feel like when I’m in that gallery I’m allowed to feel exactly how I feel all the time walking around the PC world where people are trying desperately not to talk and think about September 11th anymore.
That’s why I felt so happy for this film and for the commemoration of the 6-month anniversary.
It was a chance for everyone to stand up and say, “Yes this is still on our minds and in our hearts. We just pretend it isn’t.”
I went up on my roof last night and turned toward the place in the sky where the towers used to be and watched the memorial lights shoot up into the sky for their first night.
They are haunting and bluish-white and soft and strange.
My friend Wolf, visiting from L.A., calls them “The Ghosts.”
There are a lot of ghosts walking around Manhattan these days.
Some of them are dead and seem to brush past us when we walk anywhere near ground zero, or a fire station.
Some of them are alive and smile at us a little sadly when we look in the mirror.