Monday, September 19, 2011

9/11 Television Tributes & Specials, Part 2

by Amy K. Bredemeyer

I wrote about a couple of 9/11 specials the other day, and wanted to finish that up. Honestly, it got hard to watch these things after the first few. It took me many more sittings than I expected to get through the ones that I wanted. I did still miss one, but life goes on. Now, I did end up watching one that I'm not going to say much about, so I'll start with that one.I actually don't have a ton of comments on any of these four, but I still learned a lot from them.

Rebirth: This one took a look at five New Yorkers who were deeply affected by the September 11th attacks. The filmmaker visited witheach of them once a year from 2001 to 2011. Three of the stories were deeply touching in particular... one person lost a significant other, one lost a mother, and one was severely injured that day. From hearing about their immediate reflections to learning about how they've adjusted over time, it was moving. But, it was also very sad. And that's kinda why I didn't really take notes... and I wouldn't want to comment on their situations much.

When Pop Culture Saved America: a 9/11 Story: This feature really showed that "celebrities" of all kinds wanted to make a difference after what happened. Many of them mentioned where they were on that tragic day, and we saw how many of them made their returns to the arts afterward.It also gave a lot of background on what happened in the entertainment industry in the weeks that followed the attacks.

The cast of Everybody Loves Raymond had just syndicated [wow, remember back before that was showing reruns all the time??] and the cast flew into New York or a week-long press junket on the 10th. They were supposed to be on Rosie O'Donnell's show at 10am on the 11th.

Live with Regis & Kelly was airing on September 11th, and they look at live footage of the Towers. The show was taken off the air until 9/18. After all, for four days, many of the networks switched to news, cancelling all other programming completely. (An exception to this was Disney & Nickelodeon, who decided to be a 9/11-free zone to give kids a sanctuary.) The Daily Show was off until September 20th. David Letterman brought on Dan Rather and Regis Philbin a week or so after 9/11. On SNL on 9/29, Rudy Giuliani appeared. The Miss America Pageant was supposed to happen just after 9/11. The girls voted to have the pageant, 2-1. It aired on 9-22-01, and Tony Danza, the host, said the pledge of allegiance before the show started.

Oh, and Broadway! Browadway was cancelled on Tuesday and Wednesday. Idina Menzel's opening night didn't happen on Aida. The 42nd Street cast heard about going back to work 2 days after 9/11. The audiences weren't there... 200 people, 300 people in the audience... it was sad. Broadway tickets were offered to families of firefighters, police officers, those missing family members, etc. They filmed a huge commercial in Times Square, with stars singing "New York, New York," and buses of people came in from other states to get New York up and running again.

Sitcoms that take place in New York had to decide if they'd address it. Everybody Loves Raymond didn't have "very special episodes." Spin City made a conscious effort not to exploit it. It was a fictitious New York City, after all. Becker did a moving episode about a woman who was looking at where her son had been when the towers came down, which aired 1-21-04. The character's son loved the view from his office. [I don't think I've seen that particular Becker episode.] Frasier lost writer and executive producer David Angell, who had been on the first plane to hit the towers. They later name the child of Daphne and Niles "David" in his honor. West Wing, which took place in the White House, abandoned their regular story arcs to deal with terrorism, having a lockdown while children are touring the White House. On 24 and The Sopranos, there were smaller changes, but still noticeable.
One Life to Live lost a cast member who worked as an extra with lines here and there. That was the day he was supposed to retire... he left his paperwork and went down and into the towers. [chilling and moving all in one.] Law & Order had shot extra episodes to get ahead of the production schedule so they could do a terrorist attack miniseries with all three Law & Order casts, but on 9/12, they pulled the plug on the miniseries. [can you imagine the backlash if they had kept it in production?!?!?]

Third Watch
was a different story. They had to toss out shows and re-focus on the truth. They used police officers, firefighters, and paramedics to help with the show. The show sent their caterers, lights, and vehicles to help them. The network considered cancelling the show completely, but the firemen and policemen told them that they have to stay on the air to tell the stories. The first episode was nonfiction, a documentary of sorts with interviews and stories. The first three shows of the season dealt with 9/11. They did an episode on how normal September 10th was. [what a marvelous idea!] And, on 10-29-01, their episode had ambulance drivers seeing people honk and wave in appreciation.

With so many storylines in both television and film using the New York skyline, there were tons of re-dos. Plus, there was supposed to be a trailer for Spider-Man that used a web between the towers to catch a helicopter of villains. So many movies used images of the World Trade Center, some futuristic. There was an episode that aired in March 2001 of The Lone Gunmen (spin-off of X-Files), the first episode has an America businessman trying to destroy the WTC with a remote-controlled plane. [that show was cancelled, but the episode still exists.] With Life on Mars, since the Twin Towers are still seen standing, he knows he's not in his own time anymore. 

And, speaking of film, Robert DeNiro and his wife organized a film festival in TriBeCa (the triangular area below Canal St.) It's near where the World Trade Center was, and they pulled it together in 120 days. It's an annual thing now, and, 5 years later, TriBeCa premiered United 93.

Other folks contributed in other ways. Sarah Tuft wrote 110 Stories, a 9/11 play. She basically transcribed people's stories and linked them together. Art Spiegelman [whom I am familiar with through his Holocaust graphic novels] created In the Shadow of the No Towers. The Amazing Spider-Man comic gave a tribute to that day.Just ten days after it happened, a telethon aired on every major television network, commercial-free. it raised $200M for victims and their families. There were also benefits going on, and celebrities flocked to them. When Phil Collins couldn't make it, he sent $2M.

And, I'll end with some random facts I learned. The NYPD has official National Anthem singers. Gilbert Gottfried's lousy joke that made everyone so angry was about flying to LA but having to stop at the Empire State Building. Kristin Chenoweth sang "Borrowed Angels" for the 9/11 memorial.

9|11: Day that Changed the World: This special aimed to tell the stories of those who had to make the important decisions on 9/11. These included President George Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney, New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, Chief of Staff Andrew Card, and others.

President Bush went running at 6:30am in Sarasota, Florida. We have a lot of security footage from the airports where the terrorists boarded.
At 8:19am, the cockpit is not answering, and we find out that someone was stabbed in business class on a plane... it's the first potential hijacking in the US in years. Air traffic folks examine the radar blips, but the system isn't designed to pick out a single plane's travel. [whoa. you'd think that would be pretty important...]
8:38 - fighter jets are requested. There is some question as to whether this was a test or a real-world scenario.
Flight 11 slams into the WTC at 8:46am. The fighter jets were still waiting for orders to take off. Bush did know about the first plane before going into the school. Mayor Giuliani was having breakfast in midtown when it happened... he said that he knew it must have been deliberate. More than 200 people dove out of the building to their deaths.
When the second plane hits, Bush is told, "A second plane has hit the second tower. America is under attack." After the classroom exercise, Bush was led to a room, watched 5-10 seconds of television, and spoke with Cheney on the phone about what needed to be said. (Calls dropped between Bush and Cheney all day.) The F-15s were in a holding pattern, waiting for instruction. They patrol Manhattan.
Around 9:30, Bush walked into the school cafeteria and had to announce to the nation that a terrorist attack had hit America.
At 9:36am, fighter jets were sent to Washington, DC, and Cheney was rushed to the underground bunker.
At 9:37am, the Pentagon was hit. Rumsfeld was in his office on the other side of the Pentagon when it happened. He went to help with the injured. 
At 9:40, Air Force One prepared to take off, with the President to remain in transit until we knew more about what was going on (also, there was no video capability on Air Force One at the time, so Bush could not address the nation until he landed again somewhere). By this point, the FAA had decided to land all planes to the nearest airports immediately. [omg they waited an HOUR after the first crash to do that??] The next major question focused on if they should shoot down a plane if it was determined to be hijacked. When United 93 turned toward Washington, DC, Dennis Hastert, being the Speaker of the House and third in line for the Presidency, was brought to a helicopter and took off, to keep him safe. Two fighter pilots took off to intercept the fourth plane, headed to the heart of Washington, DC, and they were told to shoot it down.
At 9 minutes out, the plane was lost on radar and there was confusion over whether it crashed or was shot or what had happened. The fighter pilots were prepared to shoot down any other hijacked planes. Then, they found out it was Al-Qaeda because someone recognized some of the names on the flight lists. It was immediately questioned how they were allowed to board. Also at this point, Mayor Guiliani was trapped because of the collapse of the South Tower. The group he was with had escaped the building and was faced with wondering how to preserve the city government. The team headed away from the Twin Towers and suggested everyone evacuate the area.
The second tower fell at 10:28am.
A mysterious plane is beginning to threaten Air Force One just after 10:30am. It just had a communications fault, though. The White House gets a crank call about Air Force One being next. Fighter jets begin to escort Air Force One.
11:15am - almost all planes across the country have gotten down now. Air Force One heads to Louisiana because they were doing a nuclear exercise and would be on highest alert. They didn't announce they were going to land there until minutes before. Nobody else was really told until they landed, but a local TV station saw it and taped it.
11:55 am - Guiliani and his team are set up at a firehouse about a mile from the WTC. Guiliani had to order body bags, and was told they wouldn't need that many... most of the bodies would have been pulverized. [what crushing news! (no pun intended!)]
12:36pm - Bush addresses the nation again. He spoke for 2-3 minutes. Air Force One moves to Nebraska, and the President is brought underground in a very secure conference room. Bush announces that they'll shortly be returning to Washington, DC, and he was back around 7pm.
At 8:30, Bush announces that countries harboring terrorists will be targeted by the US.
Another plane was headed toward Washington, DC that night. It turned out to be a friendly plane, but there was still evacuation.
At midnight, recovery teams are flooding into New York. A total of 2.2B was donated to 9/11 charities.

George W. Bush: The 9/11 Interview: The National Geographic Channel looked at Bush's personal story of the day. Its first-person insight shares Bush's thoughts and feelings during that momentous day.

6:31am: ram through a golf resort in Sarasota.
8:45am: went to the school as part of the plan to highlight education reform. When Bush heard about the first plane, he thought something had happened to the pilot or that there was bad weather. He told his staff to provide whatever help NY needed. Andy Card gave him the word about the second plane. He was angry - who could do that to America? Being in front of kids made him remember that he needed to protect the people. [very good point.] He didn't want to rattle the kids... he wanted to put off a sense of calm.
In the holding room, he started making some phone calls and watching footage from NYC. Condi Rice called him about the third plane hitting the Pentagon. As he thought about the crashes, the first could have been an accident. The second made it an attack. The third made it a declaration of war. [strong and powerful words, there!] They needed to prevent other attacks. [and that really was the bottomline.]
9:42am: They arrived at the Sarasota airport. Bush wanted to go to Washington as Commander-in-Chief. Andy Card told him that they're not going to Washington. Bush wasn't happy, but they held their ground... it was unknown what else might come. He soon knew what war was like in the 21st century. [another great quote.]
They land in Louisiana amidst armed bombers with armed troops... like a combat zone in itself. He used the General's office to communicate with the White House's underground bunker. He wanted to make another statement because he felt that the country needed to hear from him. [and, it did.]
1:04pm: the speech broadcast. [I'm not sure if I realized before that this one wasn't live...]
Later, he didn't want to be in Nebraska, and convinced everyone to move back to Washington, DC. There was discussion about declaring war that night, but he did not. The speech at 8:30 was as close to declaring war without doing so.
There was great concern about a second wave of attacks. [man, was I naive! I didn't consider such things. Of course, I was 17.] September 11th forced him to make tons of tough decisions. He was living day by day... he didn't have a strategy.
On September 14th, Bush went to NYC.
Obama called Bush to tell him that Osama bin Laden had been killed, and Bush congratulated Obama.
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