"World Trade Center is selfless filmmaking at its best. Here, without frills or bombast or politics, is the day the world turned upside down ... and what helped right it again."
- Eleanor R. Gillespie
For those on the periphery - perhaps all but a few thousand relatives and survivors - time may have diminished the horrors of that awful day. But for those now widowed, orphaned or otherwise bereaved, five years barely dents their grief. Nor should it, at least until the last stone in the search for accountability is overturned, and everything possible has been done to prevent such evil from happening again.
I didn't lose anyone in the World Trade Center attack, although I join all New Yorkers in losing the familiar skyline I saw every day of the year our family lived just across the Hudson River. I flew over the site three years ago, but have yet to set foot on the dismembered ground. But last week, five years after the fact, I thought I could handle the movie. I'm so glad I did.
Because the film was directed by Oliver Stone, better known for hyperbole and conspiracy theories, I was prepared to write a Roger Ebert-style critique. But this is a favorable review.
From the plot line following the lives of two actual New York Port Authority policemen mired in the rubble, to the unexpected asides throughout the two-hour film, I thought the movie was wonderful. Not wonderful because of the subject matter, or the suspense in waiting to see if Sergeant McLoughlin and Rookie Jimeno would survive, but wonderful because of the ordinary, well-portrayed emotions any of us would have felt had our loved ones been "down there," or racing to the scene to help.
Besides the material damage and lives lost, Stone reminds us of the selfless heroism of men and women in uniform, scrubs, and ordinary gear who saved more people than we'll ever know. Whether emotionally or from residual respiratory effects, many of those rescuers were casualties, too.
The film revives something else: The sense of unity and "America the Beautiful" bonding we felt for months after that tragic day. Teams of first responders from all over the country, separated not by title or origin but by task, were there digging, tending the wounded, transporting supplies, feeding the workers, or wiping soot and ash from the faces of the exhausted. Those of us at home glued to our TV sets were "there," too, all in a team of one. No debates, no "blame America first" protests, and no one hogging the limelight.
Dave Karnes, the former Marine, whose character may or may not be fictional, personifies those we know traveled great distances to be part of the crowd that day "helping make things right again." More than anyone else in the film, Karnes reminded me how it felt when we all joined heart, mind, and sinew, first to recover, and then to start searching for those who did this to us. Today, it's obvious, that "America the Beautiful" feeling has slipped from our collective grasp.
Critic after critic calls this film, "surprisingly without politics," but it's not without a message. After the sheer memory of that day, what comes across most in the film is that unity. Like the family, the neighborhood, or other small entity, our country and our country's interests around the world were all attacked that day. The hijackers didn't fly those planes into one race of people, one economic class, or one political persuasion over another; they attacked America.
Whether in film, in methods to combat such awful acts, or in an election to choose those who will chart our defense, would that "the good we saw that day" monitor our competing goals, find its way back, and bond America together again.
Barbara Seaborn is a local freelance writer. E-mail comments to email@example.com.
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