One Last Moment For 9/11

Posted: September 12, 2011 in The Blog

I didn’t intend on spending two posts on September 11th.  I’ve said before that everybody was affected in some way on that day and everyone has expressed their thoughts and feelings since.  I’m not going to say anything profound that hasn’t been mentioned already.  But like I’ve also said before, this is the best way I know how to remember that day and express my condolences.  This is the best way I have to prove I haven’t forgotten that day and I don’t take life for granted, even if that proof is more for me than anybody else.

I spent this evening watching Jules and Gedeon Naudet’s excellent documentary 9/11: Ten Years Later, the follow up film to their 2002 entry 9/11, and came away very impressed.  The film-making brothers had started filming a documentary on becoming a New York City firefighter long before September 11th.  The original idea of the film followed a rookie firefighter, Tony Benatatos, for Engine 7, Ladder 1 as he fulfilled his dream to become a fireman in New York all while catching the daily grind of a first responder on camera.

Then, by no choice of their own, the film became a 9/11 documentary.  I have not seen the first movie in the series but the second one contains some fairly astounding footage, largely unedited, from what is believed to be the only surviving video from inside Ground Zero.  Jules Naudet was in the lobby of the North Tower (WTC 1) while it was on fire above him, when the South Tower (WTC 2) was struck by Flight 175, and when that same tower collapsed nearly one hour after impact.  He survived it all.

Early in the film Benatatos is shown receiving his first paycheck, a net of just over $650 for his first two weeks on the job, while a fellow firefighter jokes that in New York City, that sum may be enough to buy him a six pack after work.  A thankless job, no doubt, that apparently doesn’t pay very much starting out, especially by New York City standards.   Benatatos  shows the paycheck to the camera and says, “If I wanted to be rich I would’ve been a lawyer but I wanted something I could live with.  This I can live with.”

Over the course of the beginning of the film, Benatatos is shown becoming increasingly anxious as he had yet to encounter his first real fire and the statement was made, “Be careful what you wish for.”  Words that sent chills down my spine.  I knew what they didn’t at that very moment.  It was like watching a horror movie, knowing what has been foreshadowed, and trying to will the main characters to go the other direction only to watch their demise.  Except this was real life.

The graphic and real nature of the footage was the first time I have been visibly upset since the event actually happened.  Maybe watching this documentary was an appropriate refresher of what really did happen that day.  However, as I let my emotions get the best of me, I watched in awe at a group of firefighters who’s calm and resolve, even when in the lobby of the North Tower when the South Tower was struck, was simply inspiring.

The aftermath is shown with thousands of workers cleaning up the rubble and uncovering bodies.  Some of the eye-witness accounts are almost disturbing in nature and downright sad.  What happened to the 2,977 casualties is nothing short of tragic and what the recovery workers had to see first-hand are images and experiences I wouldn’t wish upon anyone.  Plenty of praise has been heaped on policemen, firemen, first responders, and the military but if you didn’t think members of New York City’s finest were heroes, at least on that day, you will after watching this film.

As we close the first decade of rebuilding after September 11, 2001, I’ll leave you with this Edmund Burke quote as posted by my dear, dear friend Adam, an Army Special Forces soldier, who added his sentiments: “I’ll never forget this date, not even for a second. What happened will forever drive me.”

“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to stand by and do nothing.” -Edmund Burke


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