For death is no more than a turning of us over from time to eternity. ~William Penn
As someone who in intrigued by the concept of memory and remembering, it was fascinating to see the diverse commemorations concerning the ten-year anniversary of the 9/11 tragedies. Like many people, I remember where I was and what I was doing as the events unfolded, as disbelief stole across the nation.
I purposely tried to avoid the news programs and specials which endlessly replayed the footage. I saw it then, watched it happen, and don’t care to see that part again. But I was taken in by some of the interviews and documentaries that came about because of this particular anniversary year. A decade is, in most respects, a long time, a well-rounded period allowing for the settling and shifting of history and remembrance. Though the losses can never be replaced, holes never filled, ten years provides a distance to see how (or if, I suppose) the remembering changes.
Two documentaries in particular did catch my attention, primarily because of their particular slant. The first was a documentary following Paul McCartney in the days after the attack, The Love We Make. As he explains in the opening sequence, he was on the tarmac at JFK, preparing to return to London to celebrate some family birthdays when the captain announced that they were temporarily delayed due to an accident. McCartney said those on one side of the plane could easily see the first tower smoking. Then they watched the plane go into the second tower. The documentary then shadows him around New York as he worked to help put together the Concert For America in October 2011. Fascinating footage, not only about New York in the first weeks following the attack, but also an inside look at being a celebrity — some of the scenes where he gets inundated with fans were particularly eerie. The clips with celebrities of every ilk – music, political, Hollywood – were engaging. As my husband noted, no matter who came to talk to him, you could tell they were all a little awe-struck at talking to *McCartney* the legend. Having just seen him in concert, I can believe that.
The other documentary I watched was one called Rebirth. Project Rebirth tags itself as “A Living History of the Human Spirit Coping With Disaster.” The project uses time-lapse photography to document the changing landscape at Ground Zero since March 2002. In the film, which premiered on Showtime yesterday, the project team not only captures the continuous changes to the physical landscape, but also sets out to explore the emotional landscape of five individuals. The team interviewed each of these individuals once a year, every year, for the next nine years. The film is intense, no doubt about it, but what emerges is that same sense of hope, of recovery, that dominated the American spirit on November 12, 2001 – the sure sense that America and its people would recover, together.
Personally, I think one of the greatest tragedies was the lost opportunity to build on that sense of unity, to rebuild American spirit as the diversely unified country that existed in those moments, to compromise and come together to build a better world, instead of the insanely divided mentality that dominates these days. It goes beyond politics and red and blue states and politicians to encompass the choices we make, the steps we take.
I just think we could have done so much better with the opportunity. I think those lost deserved better than the decade that followed.