2002-03-14 / View From the Middle

View From The Middle

View From The Middle

View From The Middle

By Charles Rogers

Let’s Hope "They" Don’t Denigrate The Story Of September 11th

I hope they don’t ruin my afterthoughts following the excellent "9/11" documentary that was presented last Sunday on CBS. "They," of course, are the networks, cable outfits, documentarians and, yes, pulp-fiction-type independent filmmakers who will either dramatize or reproduce in a reality fashion the horrific terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center ad infinitum. Unfortunately, they will do the topic for greed, unlike the magnificent presentation we saw. If I sound cynical when it comes to this great capitalistic country of ours, I am. I’m not knocking capitalism in general, mind you, just lambasting those who would take our very innards and twist them, just so they can sensationalize the disaster and make money.

The CBS documentary, titled simply "9/11" and stupidly referred by at least one newspaper as the "DeNiro Doc" because it was introduced by actor Robert DeNiro, was done by a team of French filmmakers, Jules and Gedeon Naudet, who had been shooting a documentary on a downtown probationary fireman since last June.

It would have been a good documentary by any standard, but the disaster occurred while one of the brothers was with a Fire Department engine company on its way to another fire call and was shooting the story with them in the lobby of the first tower when the second plane struck. We not only saw what transpired from that vantage point, but from the view of his brother, who was at the firehouse when it happened and headed toward the scene of the disaster as thousands of people ran away from it. Both men had their cameras running constantly and now, six months later, we were privileged to see their edited versions of the tragedy from different points.

I know there were those who said the show should not have been aired at all; that the families and other loved ones who perished at the time would be distraught, at the least, at reliving those traumatic events. Compassion would dictate they were right, in a way. One must say distraught is too mild a word in these circumstances.

Frankly, I was ready for the documentary. I waited a couple of months before visiting Ground Zero and saw it — in all its horrid immensity — well after September 11th, 2001. Whereas we all saw the original events while they were happening and, no doubt, have seen excerpts of the crashes and the President and the firefighters and policemen and running crowds, etc., in separate episodes, we’d not seen them put together in a chronological style, such as this documentary. As a journalist, I had talked with dozens of firefighters and police officers from the local area and, with each interview, had my memory jounced back to the events we all saw on 9/11, but never as realistically as this.

We were all fascinated as the astounding events unfolded and the absolute bravery of those heroes was exposed. We knew the stories that were being told and watched the principles as if they were part of a fiction movie — but we were still fascinated.

Now my admiration for the heroes, hate for the evildoers, respect for the leaders, hope for the soldiers and sympathy for the bereaved has been renewed. I don’t want to be inured by repeated showings of the tragedy on television and in the movies. Nor do I want the story to be defamed or to be anything resembling the ordinary. We owe it to ourselves and to all those concerned to see that the biggest story of the last 100 years is not denigrated, but is treated with compassion and, most of all, dignity.

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