Sunday, September 11, 2011

September Eleven Eleven

Some brief musings on the day, today and ten years ago....
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On September 11 2001, I drove to work on a gently warm, cloudless sunny day... a morning just like this one... I heard on the radio about an accident that occurred in New York...a plane had crashed into one of the Twin Towers.... At the office, everyone was abuzz with trepidation...  we went into the break room to watch on TV what was unfolding.... Our boss was clueless, and forced everyone back to work...As the implications became clear, and some of us were able to find the news on our desk computers, little work got done that day.... 

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When you live near a major airport, you begin not to notice the almost constant rumble of planes flying in various altitudes overhead...That afternoon, and for several days after that, planes stopped flying, and the noise stopped... It was more silent than I could ever remember, a deathly quiet....

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I recall feeling like I knew nothing of a world that was suddenly very menacing... I knew I could not help change a world I didn't understand... So, I began reading, again, in earnest....

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It is noon as I write this.  They are playing taps across America.  We hear it from the television broadcast at Soldier Field, as the Chicago Bears began their season.  A 100-yard-long American Flag is unfurled across the field. A deafening roar of the crowd while tenor Jim Cornelison sings the Star Spangled Banner.

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Hollywood and 9/11:  A few days ago I read a Huffington Post essay by New York journalist Saki Knafo (Filming the Unfilmable: Hollywood's Attempts To Chronicle 9/11).

It occurred to me that the late Robert Altman might have been the ideal filmmaker to make the definitive 9/11 movie. His collaborative style of filmmaking, his painterly directorial eye, and his skill with large casts would have allowed him to treat the politically controversial subject matter, and catastrophe, through interlocking human stories.   He would have done this with respect, and with wry observation, without dogma, and would have built his scenario to a stunning conclusion.

And then it hit me with a jolt that Altman already made his 9/11 movie---"Nashville".  Although released in 1975, decades before 9/11; and though it took place, not in New York, but in the American South; still, his uniquely American story of politics and pop culture was politically and emotionally prescient. 

The finale at the Parthenon was like a microcosm of the shattering disaster that occurred twenty-six years later. The scene, in which a shocking incident is followed by the reaction of a crowd, is profound in its simple ambiguity, and is at once inspiring, chilling, infuriating, and exhilarating....

Americans responding to tragedy: resilient? misguided?  Watching "Nashville" today, Altman's orchestration and observation of human behavior applies in a strangely prophetic way to 9/11.

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San Francisco Opera presented the World Premiere of "Heart of  a Soldier" to commemorate a tragic hero of the day of the attack.

The opera tells the story of Rick Rescorla, "a British-born adventurer who fought in Vietnam before settling in New York as head of security for a brokerage firm based in the World Trade Center. On 9/11... his extraordinary courage and calmness in a crisis paid off: Rescorla led all of the 2,700 people under his care to safety—literally singing them down the stairs—before heading back into the burning building for one last check. He never emerged."

The opera stars renowned American baritone Thomas Hampson.

NPR recently interviewed Rescorla's widow Susan, who related the bittersweet story about how she and Rick found each other after their respective marriages had failed. Both in their 50's, they discovered in each other the love of their lives.

Maybe small, human stories are the most effective way to make sense of what happened in 2001. 

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