Of Bars, Booze, and Bartending - Proving "Coughlin's Law" Invalid Since Feb '05

Monday, September 11, 2006

Five Years

One thing is for certain... 9/11 isn't about me, and has nothing to do with me. Here in Cincinnati, we watched just like the rest of the world did, but we weren't a part of it, other than we were Americans, and we were all experiencing this together, and at the same time. I didn't plan to write today, because anything I say will come off as trite and inappropriate, I imagine. I'm just some schlub barkeep, after all.

But... last night, on the eve of this sad anniversary, while many were watching the much-maligned docudrama "Path to 9/11" on ABC, and while probably millions more were watching "The NFL-Manning Bowl" on NBC (I can't blame them), I watched "9/11" on CBS. This was a documentary by French filmmakers, the Naudet brothers, and James Hanlon. Originally making a program about rookie, probationary firefighters, the filmmakers were about two months into their work when they found themselves in the center of Ground Zero on September 11, 2001. The film was especially notable since it contained the only known footage of AA Flight 11 hitting the first, north World Trade Center tower, and the subjects of the film were among the first to respond at the scene. I've always felt that this movie was intensely moving, the best of the 9/11 films thus far, and I've never forgotten it since I first watched it on CBS in 2002, I believe.

For the fifth anniversary of that day, the film was updated, and I was interested in watching it again to see what had become of the firefighters. The original focus of the film, "probie" firefighter Tony Benetatos, is now a member of New York's HAZMAT team, telling us that following 9/11, he was determined that if another attack should ever occur, he wanted to be right in the middle again, so that he could do something. It was interesting to learn that the attacks brought the Naudet brothers closer, into an unbreakable bond, as they tell us. (There is an astounding scene in the film where the brothers, each thinking the other is dead, are reunited at the firehouse.) One of them married shortly thereafter, at the same Duane Street firehouse. They shared their footage of the wedding, and spoke about their deep, continuing bond with the men of Engine 7, Ladder 1.

There were sad stories as well. Many of the firefighters who responded first, survived and then spent weeks at the recovery site are now very ill. Many of them suffer from "survivor guilt" and admit that it is difficult to talk about. Others retired soon after the attacks, moving far, far away from New York City. They have yet to return to the city they once called home.

Watching this documentary stirred up feelings I haven't felt since the months after the attacks; those firefighters were the bravest and they remind all of us what true sacrifice, and real leadership, looks like. They reminded me that there are still reasons this country, and humanity, should remain hopeful. Seeing them again allowed me to put away the anger and disappointment I have felt for a very long time now.

I am surprised by the way I am feeling today.

As my memory rests, but never forgets what I lost
Wake me up when September ends
Summer has come and passed, the innocent can never last
Wake me up when September ends
Ring out the bells again, like we did when spring began
Wake me up when September ends

- Green Day, "Wake Me Up When September Ends"