It may be highly tempting to look for all sorts of
meaning and symbolism in relation to the terrorist attacks of September
11 2001, given the very recent news that US forces found and killed
al-Qaeda supremo Osama bin Laden in Pakistan, virtually one decade on
from the attacks on New York’s Twin Towers which housed the
meaning-laden World Trade Centre.
The internet has become a natural home for sceptics and
conspirophiles of all stripes, perhaps explaining the calls to ‘see the
body’ before some even contemplated the veracity of news of the death.
It’s reassuring then that the venerable National
Geographic label should go back and, with a documentary microscope, look
at the lives of surviving Americans and the changes they could not
escape. Some of these people include a female office worker, a blind
male office worker and his guide dog, a woman whose first day of work
was at the Pentagon, the guy in charge of the US Federal Aviation
Administration, a police officer, a fireman and a photo-journalist.
With their to-camera testimony and other material,
writer/director Allison Argo is able to stitch together the story of the
doomed flights and the sheer shock and scrambling evident from the first
impact onward. Most interesting for me was that the US FAA was not able
to communicate directly with the air force like I had presumed.
There are also some arresting images I had never seen
before. It is the kind of sight that remains heart-stopping even 10
years on, at least for me and others who remember where they were and
what they were doing. Perhaps the best aspect of Surviving 9/11
is its putting a comprehendible, human face on an overwhelming event.
Seeing the towers implode is an awe-full handful of seconds: connecting
it to the people we know must have perished in them is a whole other
thing, and this documentary helps to achieve that.
As a bonus feature, there is a second documentary, also
of some 50 minutes. Sadly, it is cheesy and alarmist, with its fixation
on hypothetical solutions for hypothetical attacks. I didn’t get much
out of it but it is very generous of the DVD-makers to include it