Friday, August 11, 2006

Of Planes, Plots, and 9/11 films

Planes again?

I give a hat tip to Britain’s MI5 for tracking this plot. Those guys are pretty good at what they do. As for Pakistan’s ISI, the cooperate with one hand and foment with the other…

As we approach to the fifth anniverary of 09/11/01, it’s noteworthy that Oliver Stone’s new movie World Trade Center opened up this week. I haven’t seen it, and I don’t know if I even want to. For one thing, I’m not a big fan of Stone’s films. It has gotten mixed reviews, plus I really don’t know if I want to sit through the experience anyway. The whole genre of 9/11 films is somewhat questionable to begin with. Rather than seeing 9/11 as a one-off tragedy, it should be seen as something that has a high likelihood of being repeated in some fashion, as this week’s events show.

A few months ago I did see director Paul Greengrass’ film United 93 as soon as it opened. It thought it was was a pretty good movie. I appreciated how Greengrass was careful to avoid undue sentimentality and sensationalism.

The film opens up in darkness, and all you can hear is a voice speaking softly in arabic. As the light comes up, you see one of the hijackers reading from his Koran in his hotel room just before departing. I have to say, even somehat shamefully, that the arabic was annoying to me. It bothered me… got under my skin… especially to see it put in the service of violence through prayer. Greengrass did, however, try to portray the hijackers with some complexity, and not as typical Hollywood villains. Near the end of the film there is a sort of reprise of the prayer scene, when the control of the plane is being battled over between passengers and hijackers. The passengers in back are praying the Lord’s Prayer in english and the hijackers are praying in arabic…

United 93 uses unknown actors, which was another good idea from Greengrass. Some of the “actors” who were playing the part of air traffic controllers, supervisors and military personnel, were actual participants in the events of that day, playing themselves. The only problem with that was, they tended to be very strong personalities, and their performances overpowered those of the actors who were playing the characters on the plane. The plane scenes were a bit awkward. It’s hard to know what really happened on that plane. It is all speculation. Overall, it was pretty well directed, but I found that for most of it, my mind was wandering back to my own recollections of the events of that day. I’m sure that for most people watching, it was the same reaction.

One of the things I remember most about that spectacular September morning was how beautiful it was. As it sticks in my memory, I have to recall that it may have been one of the most perfect weather days I’d ever seen. A woman who worked on my floor, whom I didn’t know very well, was on the United 175 plane out of Boston that hit the south tower. There is another man on my floor who was supposed to go with her to an IT conference in Los Angeles. He decided at the last minute not to go. He still has the ticket manifest. He even had considered taking a couple of kids out of the first week of school for a few days to go to LA with him. Can you imagine?

It was a very strange day where I worked. My deparment was getting over the effects of data problems caused by the recent merger of the systems of two companies. We were still working in sort of a crisis mode. Despite all of the events going on around the country, and the loss of the woman I mentioned, everyone kept working. We all checked the news websites of course, but we kept on going…Strange. Maybe it was nervous energy. Maybe it was shame and fear and revulsion that a plane had been hijacked out of our own city. We all had the grim realization, of course, that a terrible war would result from the events, but in a lot of ways it would have been hard to see where we are today.


crystal said...

Hi Jeff. I remember that day too. My sister came over to help me fix the roof of the house. I hadn't heard any news, and when she told me about it, I thought she was joking. Later on the news, we saw the tapes of the planes hitting the towers ... surreal.

I don't think I'll see either of the movies, though I did see part of a tv version of the United 93 flight - disturbing and sad.

Paula said...

In 10th of September 2001 my ex husband announced me by email that he wants a divorce.I made a nervous breakdown and left the University in tears. I called him and had a long, painful conversation. (One year before, in 2000, we decided togheter that it is better for me to come here in Germany for studies; he was in Hungary at that time). In 11th I was in shock, crying all the time. My friends visited an told me about the WTC. I could not understand what was happenning and how serious it was. Only 2 or 3 days after 9/11 I could really comprehend the gravity of the situation. I have cried then the second time: for the people who died. So, I do not think that I will go to see the triggers painful memories.

Jeff said...

Hi Crystal and Paula,

I'm sure it's a day that none of us will ever forget. Interesting how the memory of it is intertwined with the other events and crises in our lives that were going on at the time.


I'm, so, so sorry to hear your story. It must have felt like your entire world was coming apart and th whole world was going mad. I admire for you for having battled along, perservering, and surviving. Distance between married partners is hardly ever a good thing. I've rarely seen it work out well. I can empathize with you to a small degree. I've had relationships end over distance in letters or calls, but never in something in which I'd had so much invested as you did. Like a death, these sorts of things take a good decade or so to recover from and even then, the scar is left forever. I'd venture to guess that there are times you have nightmares in your sleep reliving it even if you can force yourself not to think of it during the day.

I'm Sorry to bring up a bad memory for you. God Bless you.

crystal said...

Paula, I'm sorry ... I think I know a little how you felt.

Paula said...

Jeff and Crystal, thanks.
I think that it is better for both of us (me and my ex husband) that we divorced. My best friend has a long-distance relationship that works well...I do not think that the distance is to blame always for a break-up. Rather the distance is sometimes a catalyst.:-).
I have no nightmares and the scar is almost healed. But i do remember it when is 9/11. :-). After the divorce several other things happened, things that appeared bad at that time, but those things made me who i am now...finally all the bad was for good. Yes, I have scars, but this is the price that some people must pay in order to grow-up. I am one of them.:-).

thanks for this post. It made me understand how much i changed in comparison with 9/11 2001. I am glad for these changes.