9/11: One Day in America Review – Haunting Memories of America’s Darkest Day

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9/11: One Day in America, from National Geographic and the 9/11 Memorial Museum, presents through eye-witness accounts, archival footage, and first-person narrative the events of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in New York City.

The documentary, which has screened at the Tribeca Festival and AFI Docs, begins with darkness, voices filtering through, directions and then black. And out of the darkness, a New York firefighter covered in soot, ash walks into the light.

September 11, 2001 - We Remember

In official collaboration with the 9/11 Memorial & Museum, Academy Award®-winning filmmakers TJ Martin and Daniel Lindsay take viewers through the harrowing moments of the historic morning of September 11, 2001.

Footage shot by firefighters responding to a routine gas leak captures the moment the world changed. Survivors from the World Trade Center share their experiences of that day, chronicling the shock and emotions that rippled across the world 20 years ago.

The documentary presents the first three episodes of this harrowing and extensive multi-part docuseries, revealing the collective trauma and humanity from America’s darkest moment in modern history.

Beginning with First Repsonders the segment is time stamped, 5:58 – 10:00am. And then it is the top of the hour, two minutes to 6:00 a.m. on what looks to be the beginnings of a perfect September day, azure blue sky, warm temperatures.

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We meet New York City Fire Chief, Joseph Pfeifer, Battalion Chief in the first Battalion of the New York Fire Department, whose responsibilities were for the tip of Manhattan. A twenty-year veteran, Chief Pfeifer, provides a personal account of the beginnings of a normal and relaxed day checking a gas leak fourteen blocks from ground zero.

The fire department had been filming the chief that morning and his footage provides the exact moment the first plane hit the tower. Riding with the Chief toward the World Trade Center, he reacts with calm and makes the call, and assessment, transmitting the third alarm with instructions for each battalion segment, first alarm, second and third.

Earlier Ron Clifford, a New Jersey businessman, found out his mid-town meeting had been moved to the world trade plaza, and arrived early. Kevin Leary, a Chef, at the Greenhouse Restaurant, which had been located in between each of the two marble and granite structures, was busy preparing sauces for a party.

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Each of these men provide first person accounts of their experiences. Throughout the film, woven into the archival footage of the catastrophic scene unfolding, are message from Air Traffic Controllers, trying to raise the pilots, and flight attendants explaining the takeover of one of the four planes.

Clifford, who had been waiting in the Marriot World Trade hotel lobby, describes the scene inside, the thick smoky haze mixed with the smell of and jet fuel and a ghostly like figure walking through the smoke and ash, a woman, Jenny Ann Methao, burned badly, unable to open her eyes, was walking blindly crossed paths with Ron Clifford.

Ed Fahey, FDNY, for anyone living in the city the heavy losses the New York Fire Department suffered that day still traumatizes. A female survivor, who had been unable to open the fire escape door, tells her story.

Three FDNY had walked to the stairs, as no elevators were working, and were on a search and rescue mission. Between the four, who would die that day, they saved 70 others trapped inside the towers.

9/11: One Day In America uses collected footage from a circling rescue helicopter, who as we find out had been looking for one corner of the roof available for rescues, which is the same disaster plan used during the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center. However, on this day, roof rescues for the thousands looking out the windows hoping, wasn't possible. We see those who made the decision to jump and hear last messages to loved ones from trapped victims.

For those who lived in and around New York City, the World Trade Center Plaza and towers were more than buildings, structures on the skyline. They represented achievement, optimism, possibility and on any given day upwards of 10,000 people would make their way into the buildings.

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I found myself watching and re-watching glued to the same scenes that transfixed me on September 11, 2001, when I sat shouting at the jumpers who were long dead, no, no. It is as if it were yesterday.

The images engraved in my mind. The need to be near the epicenter, walking to the Hudson, and watching the towers burn. The two different realities, the towers, chaos, fire, and death less than one mile away and on the Jersey side of the Hudson, a perfect, tranquil, early fall day, spotless blue skies, still warm temperatures.

The World Trade Center attacks forever changed me. The need to say something became the inspiration for a collection of poetry, "On That Day," "Vanishing Footsteps" and "Into the Canyons" and for anyone anywhere near New York City, those these titles speak the day.

9:11: One Day in America is riveting, a story of courage, bravery, compassion, shock, hope and humanity. See it.


Country: USA.

Language: English.

Runtime: 76minutes.

Director: Daniel Bogado.

Writer: Daniel Bogado.

Producer: Caroline Marsden.

Cast: Battalion Chief Joseph Pfeifer, Ron Clifford, Kevin Leary, Ed Fahey, other survivors.

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