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This half-hour documentary, shot at a bed and breakfast four hours Northwest of New York City, captures the reactions of guests to the September 11 terrorist attacks and their aftermath. Regular people, many of whom witnessed the World Trade Center attacks in New York City, describe where they were, what they felt and the actions they took on that day. They speak at the breakfast table, outdoors against a backdrop of fall trees with decaying leaves, and at other locations around a rural log cabin inn. The documentary, entirely shot on digital Betacam and edited digitally, captures the strikingly personal stories of regular people forced to consider fearful realities of humanity in the blink of an eye.
Over 100 subjects describe how they dealt with the day’s events. Maggie Ackerman, a 4th grade teacher’s assistant in Mechanicsburg, PA, tells of having to mask her emotions from her students, who would later be told of the events at home. Meagan Scheidgler, a high school English teacher from Rochester, NY, exlains how she felt as the entire school sat down together to silently watch the news, sharing in their shock, confusion, and anger. Edward Jorge, a regional manager of the US Peace Corps, describes running from #6 WTC with his colleague, watching the fateful scene unfold from a nearby marina, and desperately trying to call his staff to see if they had made it out alive. Denise Ambonino, an office worker, hesitates in her introduction:”I work… I mean, I used to work, in Tower 1 of the WTC, and was downstairs getting coffee when the plane hit.” Jaleen, a German high school exchange student, admits that she felt alienated from the event and worried more about her family in Germany than what was happening around her.
Many such stories have already been told in the mainstream media outlets in the days following 9/11, but not with the level of honesty and intimacy that these testimonies offer. This film eschews the high level of emotion and drama expressed on television in September — there is not a lot of crying, there are no children of fire-fighters who have been killed or people who lost their spouses in the attacks. These are the stories of the people who were left physically unharmed, but with the burden of powerlessness created by watching their sense of security collapse around them. This film is an important collection of human testimonies, offering insight into what it is like to be an observer, from near and from afar, of a horrendous act of human terror. Just as we will all always remember where we were the day that the Challenger exploded or when JFK was assassinated, each of us have our own stories of 9/11 that will be etched in our minds forever.