Wednesday, September 10, 2008

A Movie That Will Change Your Memories...

Tomorrow night at nine p.m., The History Channel will premiere its new self-explanatory documentary, 102 Minutes That Changed America, focusing on the hour and forty-two minutes between when Flight 11 hit the North Tower and when that Tower finally fell. In never-before-seen footage (I was skeptical, too, given the sheer number of other documentaries that have been released in the past seven years), we are taken on a real-time journey that spans the streets of downtown, Tribeca, Times Square, Staten Island, and even New Jersey as the events unfolded and the people changed.

What's most fascinating about 102 Minutes... is surprisingly not the variety of points of view the producers managed to acquire but how easy it is to slip back into the day. Aided by the occasional black slate cards, we are reminded what is coming next just by what time it is, but somehow it is still jarring to realize just how quickly the South Tower fell after getting hit. On the day of, it felt like everything was going in slow motion, but watching it replay now, removed by space, time, and a screen, the mere minutes tick off in double time. It's almost hard to put into words (especially eloquent or professional ones) how I felt while watching this documentary; since I was at work when I was, I had to stop and take little breaks at certain points just so I wouldn't get too emotional at my desk. It sounds almost crazy to say, but it made me wish I had experienced the morning with the people in the film. I may have been just blocks away from the site, but as soon as the South Tower was hit, I sought shelter in my high school and watched the buildings burn on a television screen, rather than out the window, because that way it would feel more like a movie. Now, I can't help but wonder what I would have felt-- or how I would have changed-- if I had stayed on the street instead.

The one thing I think they should have done differently, though, was let it continue where it actually ended. Looking back now, we know that the better part of the two hours that was spent in chaos was what changed our country and our history, but at the time-- in the moments after the fall of the second tower-- was when New Yorkers really started to panic. Though we marched across the bridge and up the westside highway calmly, rationally, perhaps a bit numbly, we had no reason to believe it was over. There was police force stationed at the other major landmarks, including the Empire State Building and the Javits Center, and what was so interesting was in the hours (and blocks) after the attack how attitudes started to change. But I guess that's another angle for another documentary...

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