Tuesday, September 13, 2011

9/11 Television Tributes & Specials, Part 1

by Amy K. Bredemeyer

Sometimes it's difficult for me to realize that 9/11 was ten years ago already. A lot has happened throughout the past decade - in politics, in entertainment, in the economy... not to mention in my personal life. Everything from the way we travel to the jokes we tell has been altered.

I never saw the World Trade Center in person, though I visited Ground Zero last year. It's a sobering experience to stand near such a hallowed spot, and I can't imagine what it was like to be a New Yorker in the early 00s. While there have been memorable tributes every year since the event took place, the tenth anniversary has been in the news for months. More than a dozen specials aired on various channels to commemorate the tragedy (and celebrate Patriot Day, in a way), and I watched a handful of them. Below are recaps and my own remarks regarding the various ways in which 9/11, its victims, and the responses to it have been depicted. I have decided to focus on just a few of the specials. Three here, and a few more to be published later this week. Comment below if you saw these and what you thought, or if other specials piqued your interest.

Also, if you're interested, I've posted my own "where was I on 9/11" story here. If you'd like to share yours, please tell it below or link to where you've already shared it.

Children of 9/11: The basis of this special was to follow some kids who were affected deeply by the 9/11 tragedy. 3,051 children lost a parent due to the events of that tragic day.

Rodney was 11, living near Washington. His mother worked at the Pentagon and was one of the 125 people who died in the Pentagon on 9/11. Her body was not recovered, so she has an honorary grave in Alabama. He ended up in a gang, selling drugs by 16. He had friends go to jail so he moved to Mobile to live with some family. He now has a wife and lives with her and her daughter. He's a manual laborer and was not eligible for the 9/11 bereavement funds when he moved. On the site where his mother grew up, Rodney plans to build a garden. [I honestly don't know much about how the 9/11 bereavement funds work, but it seems a shame that he cannot benefit. I am happy that he has turned his life around, though, and I'm sure his mother would love the garden.]

Thea, the daughter of divorced parents in New York, was 10. She was home with her mom when her father called from the World Trade Center. She's honoring her father by wrestling. [I don't have much to say about this one... she wasn't heavily featured. Though it is nice to do something that your father would have enjoyed.]

Catelin was 12, the daughter of a firefighter. His body was never found, though his gun and handcuffs were recovered. She has a tattoo based on her father's police logo. She and her brother, Brian, did get money for bereavement... enough for a car and college tuition. [This story really spoke to me. Catelin grieved on her own for much of her life, and the way she spoke about her father was moving. I genuinely wanted her to be able to get another hug from him... it just seemed to be her greatest wish.]

In California, three sisters lost their father, who was on Flight 93 from Newark to SFO. Hally Burnett was 7, Anna was 3, Madison was 5. Their father called that morning, and their mother sent them to school as usual, knowing that the plane had been hijacked. The girls were told that night, and their father died a hero, having helped to stop the hijackers. Madison used to say prayers for her dad to come home, but on 9/11, she didn't, and felt guilty for years. She also thought that maybe her dad survived. The girls were thrust into the media spotlight and even met the President. The family moved to Arkansas the year after 9/11, and their mother has since remarried. Madison hopes to avoid the attention that will be placed on her during the 10th anniversary of 9/11. [I've heard similar stories of those plagued with guilt over not saying a "usual prayer" or something similar. Poor Madison. It isn't clear what the girls did to cope with their loss, and being in the media was probably very difficult. It is nice, however, to be able to say that your father died saving the lives of countless others. ]

Farqad is turning 9 and his sister is now 16. Their father was a waiter at the World Trade Center and was one of 60 innocent Muslims killed on 9/11. Farqad was born on 9/13, so he never met his father. His sister got tired of people apologizing all the time. The family moved to Oklahoma in 2002 to get away from anti-Muslim attitude. [I know this special focused on the children, but I would have liked to hear from their mother a little more... what it was like to lose your husband and deliver a child two days later.]

Justin is another boy who never really knew his father. Now 9, he was born 4 days before 9/11. He lives with his mother and siblings, Katelin, now 14, and Tommy, now 17. Tommy doesn't share his thoughts and feelings about 9/11, and is upset that he has to live with just memories of his father. He thrives at a camp in upstate NY just for 9/11 kids. He wants to work there when he becomes too old to be a camper. He has had his share of problems, though... he got suspended in middle school for fighting when other kids made fun of him for not having a dad. Katelin is tired of people looking at her whenever 9/11 is mentioned. At age 5, Justin was diagnosed with a brain tumor, and now raises money for brain cancer research. [wow. you have a four-day-old baby and find out that your husband passed away... I can't even imagine. It was good to hear about how Tommy deals with it all - at first I was very worried about how he talked of keeping it all bottled up, but then hearing about how much he gets from camp was encouraging.]

Nick News with Linda Ellerbee: The Story of September 11, 2001: The aim of this was to help kids understand fact from fiction regarding what happened on 9/11.

Photo: Barbara Nitke/Nickelodeon
First, there was a run-down of the events: 19 men boarded commercial flights in Boston, Newark, and Washington, DC. They took control of four planes. One flew into the North Tower of the World Trade Center. 3,000 emergency personnel made their way to the WTC. A second plane crashed into the South Tower. President Bush was visiting a classroom when all of this happened. The third plane crashed into the Pentagon. The fourth plane was the one that so many people had called from. It was headed to Washington, DC, but  passengers revolted and the plane crashed into an empty field in Pennsylvania. All passengers and crew died, but nobody else perished. The South Tower collapsed 20 minutes before the North Tower. Over a million people were evacuated from the area, but it was peaceful. Searches for survivors went on 24 hours a day for several days. Nearly 3,000 people died, but there were 50,000 people who worked in the WTC. 100+ died in the Pentagon, but 23,000 worked there. Hundreds of emergency personnel died, but thousands did not. 250+ people died on those hijacked planes, but thousands of planes flew that morning and were NOT hijacked. [overall, I thought this was well-done and to the point. However, the end part about X died, but Y didn't was a bit strange to me.]

After the review of events, children asked specific questions and had them answered by experts. Some of the questions and their respective responses are below.
Who was responsible? A bunch of 20-something Arab males from the Middle East. 15 of them were from Saudi Arabia and were part of Al Qaeda. Osama bin Laden, who thought that violence was justified, led that group of terrorists.
Do the majority of Muslims feel this way about America? No. Most condemn violence and what bin Laden did. By burning the Koran or being anti-Muslim, you're doing exactly was bin Laden wanted... his goal was a war between Christians and Muslims.
Why did the US invade Afghanistan instead of Saudi Arabia? The men may have been mostly from Saudi Arabia, but they trained in Afghanistan, and the government of Afghanistan was on the side of the terrorists and would not hand them over.
What motive did the terrorists have?  Al Qaeda started because people were unhappy with the leaders in Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, etc. The idea was that attacking the US would work because the other leaders were friends with the US.
What were the terrorists trying to accomplish? They wanted a Muslim dictatorship to rule the world. Osama bin Laden thought he needed to get attention by doing "something spectacular" in order to fuel his worldwide movement.
How is Iraq related to all of this? President Bush didn't want us to get hit by a sneak attack again, and the US thought that Saddam Hussein (in Iraq) had weapons of mass destruction. The idea was that we needed to take him out to stop those weapons from being used against us. But those weapons were not found, and attacking Iraq was probably a bad idea, since people got very upset at us for what we did, and they're STILL trying to stabilize the country.
How did Osama hide for ten years? Rewards didn't help because people in that area of the world either didn't need the money or feared they'd be killed immediately. Plus, he had a lot of loyalty among his immediate followers.
Now that Osama has been killed, is the war on terror over? No. Although President Obama announced the capture and killing of bin Laden on May 1st, Osama had followers who are still out there.
[I particularly enjoyed the focus on having experts answer the children's questions. I found it interesting that they shared their area of study or line of work as well. I think that a more complete answer might have been given in places, but again, I'm not the expert on how much you should tell elementary schoolers.]  

Twins of the Twin Towers
: As many as 46 of those who died as a result of 9/11 were twins. This special focuses on the stories of seven surviving twins.

Zack and Andre were NYC Firefighters. On September 10th, Andre called from NC, wanting Zack to pick him up at the airport at midnight. He asked five times, and Zack finally agreed. If Zack hadn't agreed, perhaps Andre would not have been in New York that morning. Zack was in Brooklyn when the planes struck the towers, and Andre called, telling him to get into work ASAP.  Andre was in a rescue unit based in Staten Island, and he got to the WTC before Zack. If Zack had not gone back for some air bottles, he likely would have been inside when the South Tower collapsed. Out of 343 members of the firefighter department that died, Zack knew 125-130 of them, and 15-20 of them were his close friends. [this is probably the story that I clung to the most. Having the same profession as your twin must be incredibly neat... you REALLY understand them and everything they go through! It also seemed clear that Zack had thought about the "what ifs" a hundred times, and I can't blame him... I think that thousands of people have done the same thing.]

Lisa and Michael grew up on Staten Island. Michael convinced Lisa to take the police test... she became an officer and he became a broker in the North Tower. Michael was five stories above the impact. Lisa ran toward the towers when it happened, but stopped a block short. She signed a waiver not to be notified if any of Michael's remains are ever found. Lisa now has twins of her own. [It was nice to see how close they were for boy-girl twins. Perhaps it's just my personal history, but most boy-girl twins I know aren't as close as same-sex twins. as I was listening to Lisa, I found myself really wanting to hear from Michael... I just thought that they made a great pair. I'm glad that she has found some comfort after all this time.]

Greg and Steven were identical twins who grew up in Queens, the youngest siblings in a large family. Steven worked at the same company as Michael (of Lisa & Michael) on the 104th floor. The brother had planned to go surfing the morning of 9/11, but they couldn't because some friends couldn't go into work late. When the tragedy began, Greg called and called, and finally got through. During the call, Greg saw the second plane hit. Steven was in a conference room and around 9:17, the 30-40 people in the room realized that they were trapped. Greg was devastated and considered suicide on St. Patrick's Day, 2003, and after that he and his wife started a support group for the twins who lost their other halves on 9/11. 17 people attended the first meeting. [I honestly found it miraculous that Greg found out that there was a woman who called her mother and Steve's voice could be heard in the background of the call. It must have been very fulfilling to know that your twin went down comforting others. Still, it must have been terrible to realize that there was no hope... being trapped has got to be one of the worst ways to go in a situation like this.]

Linda and Brenda. Growing up, they were called BrindaLinda and BrendaLenda. Brenda worked as a systems analyst in the North Tower. After Brenda passed, Linda stopped working and even leaving the house. Two years later, she resumed her work as a teacher, though her marriage ended because of her depression. [It sure was a shame that Linda's marriage ended, but I've read that depression is a major reason for spouses to leave one another. I personally couldn't imagine not working for two years if my sister or brother (or even husband!) died, but I can still imagine to a certain degree how troubled your life could become. It's nice to hear that Linda is teaching and that she has her sister's children to stay connected with.]

Pamela and Jeffrey. Jeffrey was a research analyst in the South Tower. He called Pamela when the North Tower was hit, and did not evacuate from the South Tower. His remains were never found. [This story felt a little forced to me... so little was revealed that I'm not entirely sure why it was included. Still, Pamela did share some funny things about Jeffrey that made me laugh.]

Gary and Geoffrey. They grew up on Long Island, where Gary still lives. The brothers bought a house together, and in their mid-thirties, they got married and split the house. Geoffrey was a firefighter in the Bronx, and was restricted to office duty on 9/11 due to injury... he responded anyway. He entered the South Tower at 9:59am... just as the tower collapsed. Geoff's body was found. [wow... can you picture your family sharing a house with your brother and his family? I can't. It does sound like Geoffrey was very committed to his work, although the timing of his entrance just sucked... plain and simple.]

Dan and John. Dan was in the carpet business and John was an emergency services officer. That morning, John had rescued a bunch of people from the North Tower and was hit by falling debris when the North Tower collapsed. Seven months later, John's gun was found. On April 11th, 2002, Dan helped carry his brother's body out of the ruins. [Again, it must make you feel better to know that your twin had saved some lives that day. And being able to actually bury him probably helps you cope with the loss quite a bit. Still, it's sad that John died because of the collapsing tower... he wasn't even inside at the time.]

Also, they shared some facts that I either didn't know or had forgotten, so I thought I'd mention some here: 14,154 people were already in the Towers when the first plane struck at 8:46am. They closed the Brooklyn Bridge. 2,752 people lost their lives on the attack on the Twin Towers. 293 in-tact bodies were found, and 12 could be identified by sight. It took almost a year for the "piles" to be cleared.
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1 comment:

annette said...

I enjoyed your recaps, thanks for sharing!