Monday, June 24, 2002

last night, i somehow ended up watching the hbo docu: In Memoriam: New York City, 09.11.01. on cnn.

it's a collage of film and photo material from more than 100 people who who were in ny that day, the well-known material we've all seen more than often enough (the cameran fliming firefighters, lifting his camera up when he hears a noise, first to catch the first flight hitting the wtc/the second plane coming in, in an almost elegant curve, hitting the second tower/the giant cloud coming through the streets, the cameraperson having to be dragged into a coffeesho, the clouds swirling in front of the window. etc..) amplified by numerous home videos nyers made that day, un-cut and un-dubbed. those bits are the most haunting, those first bits of film with its unfiltered statements of shock and fear.
a man who woke up from the noise of the first crash staning on his balcony filming the wtc on fire talking about his fears of www3. the collective scream when the first tower came down. oh god. oh god. oh god. people in cars in brooklyn, seeing what was happening from afar.

there's material made from a fdny helicopter of the roof, with an interview of the pilot who is in tears explaining why they could not land on the roof to save people.
there's material from inside the wtc, people hurrying through the lobby. there are voice overs with phone messages from people made stuck in the building. "hi lisa, this is peter, there is a fire in the world trade center and we are stuck in the office and i don't know whether i will get out, but i wanted to tell you that i love you. i love you so much. tell the kids that i love them, too. i love you."

these "new" bits make this so affecting. the extensive media coverage in the days and weeks after the attacks made me believe that i had seen it all, made me numb, made me want to turn my head, hit the programme switch, hide away.
it sounds horrible to say it, but i had had enough of the countlessly repeated material in slow-mo, for weeks on tv. it had turned into a reality, a fact. the shock had worn off, it had gotten even more surreal then seeing it life. it had transcended into an icon.
i had started to not want to see it, just like i can not bear to hear the standard phrases and catchwords that developed in the aftermath, took on a life of their own, were like a mantra repeated again and again and again, even in the most unrelated of contexts, like when us snowboarders did a gold/silver/bronze-triple at the olympics ("this means a lot to our nation, especially after the tragic events of nine eleven" or whatever that guy exactly said). choose any combination of "cowardly terrorist attack on freedom". "the attacks". "september 11th". "nine eleven". make me throw up.
i surely do not want to disrespect what has happened, but i can't stop myself from hating the rhethorics, while being unable to avoid them, even as i write this.

the entire docu is interset with interviews, mainly of rudy giuliani and his staff, as there is lots of actual material from the day of the attacks of his staff and where they were going when.
i can't help but still be amazed by his statesmanly handling of it, obvious in the footage of him and his staff trying to figure out what was happening, constantly moving, holding masks to their faces. i am impressed by the calm in the eye of the storm that he was, the un-dramatic yet compassionate and emotional words he found in the first press conference. "the losses will be greater than we can bear". those pres conferences when he counted the first great losses that were already obvious, many leading members of the PA and fdny.

the only downside of some of the interviews with some of giuliani's staff members is the music they are set to. sounds superficial to criticize that, but in my opinion, the sickly sweet weeping string music is just not needed: the words are enough, and would have come across far better without the background music intended to induce even more emotions. makes for a disturbingly almost vomit inducing combination; the music makes the words seem pathetic and makes the viewer loose focus.
but that's the only flaw, really.

the one hour docu ends with footage of memorial services and burials. most moving for me personally the memorial service of the brokerage company cantor fitzgerald; the firm who lost most of their employees at their ny office.

now, a day later, i find the one picture i can not get out of my head again is the same as ever since: it is the people jumping out of the wtc, from the floors above the hitting point.
that material was left undubbed, too. you can hear a man in the off tell the cameraman to stop filming the jumping people, telling him that this was too horrible to be kept on film. you see people react to the jumpers. you hear people describe the sounds of when they hit the ground. you see footage of rudy giuliani turn away in shock when he sees the jumping people.
these desperate people jumping to their death from their offices above where the plane hit still affect me the most.

it is the photo of the man with the white jacket and dark pants, taken by ap photojournalist richard drew, believed to show norberto hernandez, pastry chef at "windows on the world", falling head down, captured in the middle of his fall, his arms by his side, the building in the background a bit blurry -yet still there- as he rushes past.
the one thing affecting me even more was a still photo of what was left of those who jumped after they reached the sidewalk.
that black and white stillphot, shown for maybe 5 seconds, splatters on the concrete and a little wall, clothing apparently thrown from somewhere, things that appear to have been body parts, had almost as much an impact on me as seeing the first tower collapse, live on cnn, paralysed in front of my telly, standing in the middle of my room in tears, hand in my mouth to stop the screaming shaken by the horror and extend of what was going on, 9 months ago.
i do not want to know what the rescue people had to see. what they still see in their dreams.

i never wrote anything on september 11th in here. i had just watched, like the rest of the world from afar, my words seemed so insufficient and useless in the turmoil that those hours, days and weeks were.

i still feel the same about writing about it.
but i just had to let this out, after last nights unexpected look back and reliving of that tuesday, 9 months ago.