Friday, September 12, 2008

102 Minutes That Changed America

To mark the anniversary of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attack on America, the History channel aired (for the first time) an amazing documentary last night called "102 Minutes that Changed America". If you missed it, please try to catch the encore presentation this coming Sunday at 8pm on the History Channel. They are also offering the DVD for sale if you go to the History website.

What made this special unique is that it recreated the events of 9-11 in NYC in real time, piecing together mostly amateur video, from the time the first plane hit the towers to the time the second tower collapsed. Hard to believe, even 7 years later, that it only took 102 minutes for the tallest buildings in the world to be reduced to a steaming pile of rubble.

The most incredible and (to me) uplifting take-away from this documentary, if a word such as "uplifting" could even be used to describe this dark day, is the absolute resilience and bravery of the people of NYC in the face of apocalypse. I always wondered why so few people were killed when those behemoth structures collapsed, and now I know. It was because of the hundreds of NYPD and FDNY workers pleading, yelling, begging everyone to keep moving and get out of the way. For once, stubborn New Yorkers complied, in a way that was orderly and incredibly not chaotic. And while thousands of people ran from the scene, hundreds of firefighters marched in the other direction, up into the towers and to their doom. It's strange, but the whole event has always made me think of the line from the movie "Starman" with Jeff Bridges. The alien says to the scientist, "Do you know what we have always loved most about you (Humans)? You are at your very best, when things are at their worst".

This is as real as it gets outside of being in NYC on 9-11-01. There are no official narrators, no posturing pundits. The only dialogue comes from the anguished comments of the regular folks, who, in picking up their home video cameras on a bright blue September morning, ended up recording history for all the world to see.


Lisa said...

I heartily second Jane's recommendation of this amazing special. I think it's the most riveting 9/11 documentary I've ever watched. I also recommend visiting History's website and exploring their great site for this special. The Interactive Map is particulary fascinating, and it will give you a good idea of the locations of the people whose footage is included in the special. Don't miss this one.

amy said...

I've been reluctant to watch 9/11 documentaries and movies after seeing so many hours of live television that day and reading so much analysis since. Let's just say I've grown tired of revisiting 9/11 year after year. So when I turned on the set last night I was annoyed to see yet another anniversary special on MSNBC. But then I realized it was live 9/11 coverage from NBC's Today Show broadcast. I was riveted for about 3 hours. The station ran it as it aired that morning. Unfortunately, there were annoying commercial interruptions every 15 minutes, but I was finally able to see how the events unfolded in a timeline that had become cloudy in my memory.For example, I couldn't remember what I had seen live or in replay, or what Jane and I actually witnessed together while on the phone. Watching this again brought it all back. Well done documentaries are marvelous because they give you background and analysis, but for me nothing has compared to watching this live coverage again. I'd forgotten how the anchors and reporters emotions ran the gamut from professional to terrified, near loss of control and disbelief. I will, however, try to catch this latest documentary since Jane and Lisa have given it such a glowing review.

amy said...

I published my comment before concluding that this documentary sounds appealing precisely because there's no narration or commentary. Jane - are you sure you're right about the date and time it airs again? :)