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By Felix Vasquez Jr. | August 14, 2006

I saw “United 93” recently.

And I had to wonder why this film was made. What thought process was behind the making of it.

Many of the excuses proclaimed, “We were forgetting.”

In my review for this, I stated that I can live to be 123 and I’ll never forget.

Sure, some of us have moved on with our lives, but have we forgotten? Have we?

A recent poll revealed that a third of Americans don’t even remember the year 9/11 happened. But then again a poll shows that about a almost half of the American population also still don’t know that the Earth revolves around the sun. It’s true.

I can’t speak for everyone, but I haven’t. I can’t. The veterans didn’t forget Vietnam, the survivors didn’t forget the holocaust, and I’ll never forget 9/11. It’s because, these tragedies, these catastrophes, in a mixture of confusion and ulterior motives, never fade. They insist on being remembered, they embed themselves into your mind.

The day after 9/11, every single network from the majors, to basic cable, to premium cable were covering it. My parents encouraged me to ignore it for a while, but I just couldn’t.

I would just lie in bed watching the humongous mound of rubble and the people struggling to look for survivors and body parts. For eight days all I watched was news coverage on people looking for their missing loved ones, pictures of the lost, headlines of a body part being discovered, and the utterly wretched telethon that played only a day later.

And I saw the footage. I saw people falling from the windows a hundred times over. I saw the same footage of the woman screaming, and victims running as the three tornadoes of smoke drilled themselves down onto us.

I listened in horror as the bodies crashed into the ground, and scientists estimated that the floors probably were in the thousands temperature wise when the planes hit.

I saw the same footage of the cameraman walking in the dark, gray, street of smoke and screams.

And in one of the most unforgettable incidences, I saw a man in a suit building a makeshift rope out of sheets and struggling to climb down it from nearly ten stories high and then finally fall to his death. That’s an image I’ll never forget as hard as I try. It’s an image I’ll have with me well into my sixties.

And then a year later, with the memories still clear as crystal, I watched the same news footage replay for three days, while the documentary “9/11” offered a sheer honest glimpse on the tragedy.

Wars can come and go, but that day happened, and it changed us. Not for the better.

As for “United 93”, I can’t say I enjoyed it, nor can I say I hated it. It was just too realistic to judge it as an average film. Whatever it strived for, it accomplished that feat with me. I couldn’t turn away, I was heartbroken, and I was utterly depressed. The same day I’d seen the film “Parallel Lines” which also pondered on the state of the world after that day.

I don’t think this world was united after 9/11, I think this world changed for the worst. And no, I won’t go on a political tirade, but I will say that after we bonded to pick up the pieces, we went back to our individual corners, and it was even worse this time.

When the towers fell, it bred a nation of apathy, isolation, alienation, war among each other, splitting of people, misery, and pure ignorance. We’ve always had this, but when the smoke cleared, our warts all became ever more visible. I questioned the existence of “United 93”, I still do.

I won’t completely dismiss it, and I’m not saying I wish it was never made, nor am I saying I wish these films wouldn’t continue to be made, but I’m just trying to understand it. Why was it made? Why five years later? It was going to happen, sure, but what was the point of this film?

While I didn’t despise it as I thought I would, it really did nothing to bring clarity to the tragedy.

It was like a re-enactment of the civil war, or a museum exhibit. Everyone involved just completely acted out every single little scenario that happened, or possibly happened during that day, and the entire cast were drawn insignificant; overshadowed by the actual attack. “This is what happened, and here’s how it ended” is much of what the movie had to offer, and nothing more. It just gave us what we already knew.

The terrorists had knives, they had a bomb, the air traffic command was without ideas, the towers were hit, passengers suffered, they eventually all fought back, and then they crashed. That’s all the movie explained, that’s all it wanted to explain, and while I was mostly stunned, I wondered what the point was in all this. We didn’t discover anything new, we weren’t given a new view into this other than Greengrass vainly attempting to add some sense of fear within the terrorists whom were struggling to build up the courage to start the hijacking. It was immensely similar to “Passion of the Christ” where it never really had a fluid story, just a series of events that played out towards an ending we knew was coming.

So why did we feel compelled to watch when “United 93” offered no clarity? And if it was made to offer none, then why does it exist? “World Trade Center” at least tries to bring us a scenario, albeit a melodramatic one, in which we visit with the two port authority officers stuck under the rubble upon the attacks. While, I can’t completely write it off until I’ve seen it, I really have no hopes for it. Nicolas Cage’s Noo Yawkah accent stinks.

And I doubt this will be the last of the big budget depictions of that day. Everyone has a story, and Hollywood will seek them out to tell their story as long as there’s money to be made. And their intentions to tell that story is never noble, but we know that already. Maybe in 2045 we’ll have a film much like “Titanic” except set during 9/11. Don’t underestimate Hollywood.

Profits, resume fillers, artistic interpretation, catharses, a fad, whatever theories you or I can come up with, they can’t tell me that the reasons these films are made is because we’ve forgotten.

When the image of that man clinging to dear life and then falling to his death refuses to stop replaying in my mind, how dare you tell me I’ve forgotten. And I really don’t need a big budget movie, or PC re-enactment to pretend its doing me a service.

These movies, much like the attacks, all left me with one thought that I couldn’t stop asking myself, and that I don’t think has a clear answer: Why did it happen? I can’t really figure it out. But I’ll tell you what: I’ll never forget. Ever.

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  1. Felix Vasquez Jr. says:

    That’s my favorite account of 9/11. Ironic how it was directed by French men.

  2. Gigi says:

    I remember that evening after the towers fell, and after waiting in a long line to purchase price gouged gas, I drove to my family farm to clear my head. I remember looking up into the sky as the sun went down, and there wasn’t a plane to be seen. Usually you can see something crossing over from STL headed east, but there wasn’t a thing. Just a few early stars popping out. And it was quiet, so deafening quiet. I began to cry, thinking of that was happening a few hundred miles away. People’s lives snuffed out like a fly smashed on a windshield. Families going through the most horrific pain they will ever know. And our country, perhaps at the brink of a war that would claim many many more Americans. I feared for my life.

    Almost five years later, I can honestly say I have not forgotten a thing about that day. I remember how quiet it was everywhere. In the gas station. As I ran into the Communications building late for class at 10am…everyone was at a desk or on the phone, whispering. My professor let us out because we were all terrified and several film students were National Guard, and knew more than likely they would be called to active duty.

    There were a few days of unity, and then it was back to over zealous political correctness, selfishness, etc. How quickly we forget. And it could so very easily happen again. I won’t ever forget out of respect to those who were there that day and most to those who died.

    I dont know how I feel about all these movies coming out so soon, I’m sure it was bound to happen regardless. I had hoped Hollywood would have waited a while to tap that particular cheap sensationalize buck. World Trade Center was perhaps a good start I guess; it was respectful but so much that there was no room to really punch the viewer in the face with what happened that day. Even still, no film will ever be able to capture what we experienced first hand not so very long ago. Our memories are more spectacular and indelible, and I feel it will be a long time before anything can put all of those emotions into words. Perhaps the closest was the 9/11 documentary captured by surprise by the two french brothers.

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