In terms of 9/11 being iconic, I suppose I would point to the American response to the shattering of safety that was the terrorist attack that killed almost 3,000 people. I first think of the short documentary ‘Boatlift’ that I watched in my high school english elective called ‘Resilience”. Watching this video made you feel proud to be an American. Here is excerpt:
On 9/11, over 500,000 people were rescued from Manhattan’s seawalls in just nine hours. How did this happen? What heroism made this possible? The answer lies in the resilience of the every day people at the scene that day, and the brave community of mariners who ply the waters of New York’s Harbor.
As the buildings fell, hundreds of tugboats, ferries, fishing boats, coast guard cutters and other vessels rushed towards the disaster. They did so at great personal risk. James Parese, the captain of the Staten Island Ferry, assumed he might be next. “We’re a big orange target in the middle of that harbor.”
Vincent Ardolino, captain of the Amberjack V, was at home in Brooklyn, watching the burning buildings on TV. He said, “I gotta go do something,” kissed his wife goodbye, dashed to his charter boat.
Boatlift plays off a very important sentiment in America: it simultaneously evokes the power/strength of the nation and the power/strength of the individual. Teamwork is balanced with individual grit and sacrifice.
As soon as 9/11 is mentioned, people have an image or story pop into their head. For those fortunate enough to not have it hit close to home, we often envision those terrible pictures of strangers jumping to their deaths. As some of my fellow classmates likely know more about, the media is often accused of being sensationalists and there has been discussion about what should and shouldn’t be aired on television (think ISIS beheadings).
Again in high school, we read the book “Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close.” The book was then adopted into a film and became more about 9 year old protagonist Oskar and less about some of the backstory and character tension. Nonetheless, I found the film to be an appropriate tribute to 9/11. You meet a very likable family of three and learn their world. Soon in to the movie Oskar’s father dies in the World Trade Center. There are heartbreaking scences surrounding the chaos that was created on that horrible day. A particularly devastating moment is when the husband, trapped in the WTC, is speaking to his wife on the phone. I have heard that this scene resonates true with many, and illuminated the effect -both good and bad- that cell phones have on tragedy. Oskar is an intelligent innocent and quirky boy, but he suffers from anxiety and self-aware depression (he calls it “heavy boots”). You root for Oskar the whole time and his words can be both solace and painful as children’s words often are.
Another element of the film is that Oskar is searching for the hole that a key he found in his father’s closet fits into. It was next to a name, Black, so Oskar is on a quest to find every Black in New York (woah!) and see if they have any information on the key. Along his immediate post 9/11 journey around New York he meets people that help him and whom he helps. Of course it isn’t all about the key. This sense of community, of New York uniting and overcoming in the face of tragedy is fun to watch, and maybe American?
The film is tough to watch at some moments, but it also shows a realistic living process post tragedy. There are good days and bad days (Oskar intentionally hurts himself), but the viewer gets to see the characters putting things together again and constructing a new life after 9/11 while always remembering those lost.