The pain and terror experienced by many Americans on Sept. 11 was revisited in a two-hour documentary filmed by two French filmmakers during the tragedy. It was at this point, while viewing the footage of “9/11,” that I fully understood the emotional connection to the attacks of that day.
I had watched several debates during the preceding week about whether or not this documentary should be shown to the viewing public. Although, I personally felt that Americans should have the choice to view this film, I could also understand the opposing perspective.
On the one hand, this documentary is a necessity for American history because it documented a day that altered how we will live for the rest of our lives. We needed to be able to see for ourselves the events that took place within the World Trade Towers to gain a complete understanding of “terror.”
Would we know how devastating the Holocaust was if it were not for “Schindler’s List?” Would the memory of slavery be as prominent without the miniseries “Roots?”
Although these were movies that depicted the heinous acts of racial oppression, actual footage serves as an even greater historical documentation that will allow for everyone in the world, not just in New York, to experience the fear and chaos that occurred on Sept. 11.
However, empathizing with the victims’ families, I can understand not wanting the documentary to be shown. I would not want to see film footage of my childhood friend dieing from a gunshot wound to the head or one of my high school classmates being killed in a hit-and-run accident. Therefore, I would not expect the families of the victims to want to view a film showing the agony that their loved ones suffered.
People must realize that unlike the Holocaust and slavery, which were racially oppressive acts, the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11 were not directed at one race of people. As depicted in the documentary, almost every race in the world was represented on the streets of New York that day, and people from all nationalities and ethnicities died in those attacks. This was not only an attack on Americans, but on the human race as a whole.
Also, unlike the Holocaust and slavery, which eliminated mass numbers over many years, the terrorists killed 3,000 people between 8:46 a.m. and 10:30 a.m. Thousands of wives became widows and hundreds of children became orphans within an hour and 45 minutes.
I am not implying that Sept. 11 is any more damaging to our history than the Holocaust or slavery, but it is a vivid reminder of how we are never completely safe and how tragedy can strike at any moment.
The documentary was not at all what I had expected to see. Due to the continuous debate over the footage, I had expected images similar to those shown in the “Faces of Death” series. I was pleased to see an extremely tasteful presentation of that day’s events.
Though, seeing the first-hand views of being engulfed in white dust and hearing the thumping sounds of bodies dropping from the building will stay forever imprinted in my memory, I value the opportunity to witness such events that impacted American history.