It’s been 20 years since 9/11. For some, the terrorist attacks predate their birth, and 9/11 is nothing more than a tragic historical date. For others, that day feels distant, as if it happened a lifetime ago, yet memories of that morning are somehow still sharp and vivid. Time is funny that way.
I can still remember every piece of that morning in high school — the way the teachers seemed a little clueless as to how to handle their classrooms, and the heaviness that was felt both in school and later at home, for days. In the years since, I’ve watched documentaries and YouTube clips, visited museums, and read article after article about that day. Perhaps it’s the news junkie in me, the way I devour anything on a particular topic of interest. But there is something about 9/11 that ropes me in, year after year, wanting and yet not wanting to revisit those moments.
I think it’s important to remember and reflect on what happened that day, and all that happened in the following years.
There are countless movies, documentaries, and other media that help bring into focus all that happened on that day. Each one helps offer a perspective of history, a different lens from which to view the same point in time. Here are three things to watch to help remember and learn about the tragedy.
Among the many things I’ve read or watched in the following years, there’s been a recent addition on YouTube in the past few years. The 9/11 Tribute Museum sprung up out of volunteers who wanted a place to memorialize all that happened that day. Most of the volunteer team is made up of those who have some sort of first-hand accounts to the tragedies. One part of the museum’s exhibits are live in-person oral stories told by those who have a firsthand account to that day, whether it was through the death of a loved one or the experience of being there in person. They share their stories and are open to questions at the end, and the videos of those interviews are placed on the museum’s YouTube channel “9/11 Tribute Museum.” Though the stories are tragic, they help give a personal sense of lots of perspectives of those who were affected by 9/11 without being terribly harrowing.
“9/11: One Day in America” is a recent documentary series by National Geographic, produced in association with the National September 11 Memorial & Museum (separate from the Tribute Museum). The directors scrubbed through nearly 1,000 hours of footage, much of it never shared before with the public. It features new inside footage of firsthand personal accounts, mostly from first responders but also survivors. It’s a difficult watch, one that I would only recommend for mature audiences or under the supervision of parents. But it is also a much more in-depth look of the accounts of that day and the days that followed. It’s an important documentary, but one that needs to be spaced out accordingly, as it’s heavy material. It’s currently streaming on Hulu or on the National Geographic channel.
Finally, while considering 9/11 from firsthand accounts I think is one of the most critical, it’s also crucial we evaluate and look at what happened from the perspective of the leaders of the country. “9/11: Inside the President’s War Room” does just that, offering a perspective of the response from President George W. Bush and his cabinet and advisers, including Condoleezza Rice, Dick Cheney and Colin Powell. Jeff Daniels does an exceptional job narrating the film. It’s currently on Apple+ with a subscription but will be free to nonsubscribers on Sept. 11.