A Day Of Remembrance: 9/11, 10 Years On

A Day Of Remembrance: 9/11, 10 Years On

Static Mass Rating: 5/5
911 (DVD)
Paramount Home Entertainment

Release date: September 12th, 2002
Certificate (UK): E
Running time: 130 minutes

Directors: Jules Naudet, Gedeon Naudet, James Hanlon
Producers: Richard Barber, Mike Maloy, Bruce Spiegel, Mead Stone

Cast: Jules Naudet, Gedeon Naudet, James Hanlon, Tony Benetatos

In the years before September 11th 2011, people would talk about where they were and what they were doing the day President Kennedy was shot and killed, when the Berlin wall came down or when Princess Diana died. Today; it’s the moment when hijackers flew planes into the World Trade Centre towers and the Pentagon.

I was living in Berlin at the time and I remember I had the whole day to myself. It was afternoon and I’d just prepared lunch, sat down with it and turned on the TV and at first I thought I was watching a movie, I didn’t realise it was CNN. The first plane had already flown in the World Trade Center’s North Tower, the building was billowing with smoke and flames and soon it became clear this was not an afternoon movie.


It seemed like a terrible accident and I thought of the people trapped inside, the lives that were immediately engulfed by the force of the plane. I couldn’t comprehend it at all – the gaping hole at the side of the building said it all and then it happened again. It was shocking and never before or since then I reacted with such horror at what I saw on the screen – the South Tower had now been struck from the opposite direction by another plane.

As the events continued to unfold it would be a long time before it sank in what was happening. In my apartment block, the sound of the daily hustle and bustle of tenants, children and workers was replaced by the collective sound of news stations. America was under attack and the world watched as the live images were beamed into our homes, offices, schools, bars and hotels.


Right there in the midst of it were two filmmakers. Jules and Gedeon Naudet, two brothers from France who were filming a documentary on Tony Benetatos, a probationary fire-fighter for the New York City Fire Department who was assigned to Ladder 1 on Duane Street. They had already been filming with Benetatos for some time already, documenting his experiences as he earned his dues with the team, but the longer they waited for a fire to come along and put him to work, the more anxious they got that it would be a big one.

For them, September 11th started off like any other. While out filming Battalion Chief, Chief Joseph Pfeifer checking for gas leaks on Church Street and Lispenard Street, Jules, like everyone else in the area, heard something above and looked up with his camera to see American Airlines Flight 11 flying into the North Tower. And that’s when September 11th stopped being a day like any other.


Jules was with Battalion 1, the first responders to the scene, and armed with his camera he documented everything he possibly could. He was in the North Tower when the second plane flew into South Tower. From inside the lobby he witnessed the horror of people on the upper floors leaping to their deaths; we hear the sounds of their bodies hitting the ground but he doesn’t show it. He also doesn’t show the burn victims who were in the lobby or when flaming gasoline from the jet engine poured down the elevator shaft. His filming is sensitive but still harrowing under extreme conditions. His is the only known footage inside the World Trade Centre as the attack took place.

Meanwhile, his brother Gedeon is back at the fire house with Benetatos who’s been left manning the phones while his fellow fighters attend the scene. As they see the North Tower collapse into a pile of dust, he fears the worst. Benetatos can’t wait any longer, he suits up and heads out.


I’ve tried to imagine myself many times in this situation. Would I survive? Would I help others? How would I get out? Where would I run? How bad was it up there in those burning towers for people to decide it’s better to jump to their deaths? Some people held hands as they leapt. Although I have only witnessed it on screen, the sight and sound of the towers collapsing still fills me with grief, shock and a kind of panic and revulsion at the same time. Life can be gone so quickly and so violently. The power of the Naudet’s brother’s footage doesn’t rest easy in your thoughts afterwards.

James Hanlon’s narration is moving and heartfelt and as those who made it out recount their experiences, we get a strong sense of just what these guys had to go through on that day to save as many lives as they could. One by one the fire-fighters return and Gedeon waits for news on Benetatos and his brother Jules. Their film doesn’t end there though. They return to the scene for the clean-up and rescue operation which is just as harrowing. The relentless search for survivors in the rubble of what’s left from the towers was just as dangerous as the moment they fled the initial collapse, but their determination to find at least one survivor shows why they’re regarded as New York’s finest in the city’s darkest hours.

The world has changed so much in these 10 years that have passed. The wars that have been fought, the economies that have collapsed. The civil liberties we’ve exchanged for the protection in a society that’s become obsessed with security. It all starts with this day and while may not still fully understand why it happened or the response it was met with, September 11th is a day we should never forget because we lost so much. We don’t want any more wars, we never have. We just want peace on Earth, finally and an end to all this meaningless pain, death and destruction in our once beautiful world.

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