by Taylor Marsh
Reporting from YearlyKos, the film I just watched is just one view into the remarkable event taking place in Chicago over the next few days. '9/12" is the story taking people "From Chaos to Community," and is directed Susanna Styron, produced by Jackie Ochs. The screening of this film was made possible by YearlyKos and the continued support of filmmakers through Brave New Films.
"This flag gives us much courage." - "Big John"
It's a journey of healing, but also of one very special flag. The flag that once flew down at Ground Zero. But the moments of 9/11 are not included. No one needs to relive it, said the filmmakers, Ms. Stryon having volunteered at Ground Zero herself. The people mixing together in the film are of all political stripes, most of whom would never have come together in any other circumstance. Explosions inevitable if the subject of politics came up. But 9/12 has nothing to do with politics. Watch the trailer.
The visuals are extraordinary. But the stories open your heart. Volunteers went in to dig with a "three pronged gardening tool," which gives you an idea of the scale of the carnage. A man nicknamed "Flag Man" got shortened to "fag man." He just replied, "but whatever." He had recently had an angioplasty, so he was sanguine about the slur: "If I drop dead, I want to drop dead with these people."
As Styron and Ochs said, the people volunteering weren't naive about the hell they were walking into.
Volunteering wasn't easy after 9/11, because a lot of people who lived in the community were turned away. But that didn't stop these New Yorkers. If you weren't union you couldn't "dig" in the rubble, as one woman put it. So she and others set up a "mini-triage" unit to wash out eyes and offer supplies. As someone who spent years living in New York, you learn quickly what this city means to the natives. It's special to me, but it was my home for less than a decade. But they found a way to get it done, get down into the rubble and make a difference; like the people who put together a place called "The Hard Hat" cafe.
"This was personal," said one of the people who lived in Chinatown when 9/11 occurred.
"Disney World was a thousand miles south. ... It was a sacred place." - a volunteer who lost a friend on 9/11.
The names of the dead ring out over the film, as background sound and reality to the recovering volunteers who take center stage in this film. When Trinity Church is shown, fully intact, it reminds me of the randomness of what survived and what did not after the attack. That sight of the Trinity Church untouched, which we saw last fall when visiting New York, is just surreal.
At one point, a simple suggestion shocks you, but it's hard to be organized during bedlam. They should have had someone around "as a debriefer," one man states. But instead the guys asked for "Denise" when they needed someone to talk to. They just wanted to "unload." As discussed by one of the volunteers, it was easier to talk to the women volunteers than "the religious." Not everyone was religious in the first place and now many were saying, "There can't be a God." Questions exploded about it.
There's one incredibly dramatic moment, among the volunteer stories. It happened organically. At one point, a firefighter called out to a bunch of sailors enjoying life and cavorting amidst the area where people were in deep mourning. Then a limo of girls celebrating their friend's marriage pull up. The dichotomy was too much for the firefighter, so he confronts the sailors. The sailors are crestfallen that they'd hurt anyone. They shook hands, but you couldn't help but feel two worlds collide. Sailors live with their own destiny rendezvous, so grabbing what they can is important. But 9/11 was just too raw for the people who lived inside the area. That the filmmakers caught this as it happened, a "should I keep shooting" moment for sure, is one of those serendipitous events you just cannot plan.
A tattoo of Gary, a son that died, lives on his father's upper arm in a full portrait tattoo. His other two sons, both firefighters, survived. You forget how many sons of firefighters were lost, a profession that is a family tradition.
"I'm sorry. I'm sorry. I'm sorry." That's what one woman said as she walked the hallowed ground because she realized she was "stepping on them."
Then the inevitable happens. Ralph got cancer of the throat from working down at Ground Zero. Some of the girls, named "Bubble Girls," that volunteered at Ground Zero put together a fundraiser for him to help him with his doctor bills.
The story of "9/12" takes back the event from all the propaganda we've lived with for so long. There's a larger tale to tell. All of a sudden it was like lightning struck. We all felt that. But people took stock of their lives. Marriages crumbled. People came together that worked together at Ground Zero. Life changed forever.
For us all.
Funding for the film was acquired, in a large way, because it was the financial district that was hit. Beyond that it was "a wing and a prayer." The filmmaker's "angel" worked for Cantor Fitzgerald, but didn't go to work "that day." His support continues through "9/12".
Oh, and by the way, Rudy Giuliani is nowhere to be seen in the film.
- Taylor Marsh LIVE! can be heard from 3-4 pm eastern - 12-1 p.m pacific, Mon.-Thurs, with podcasts available. Next broadcast on August 6th, after YearlyKos. Taylor Marsh is serving as a volunteer on the advisory committee to the convention's leadership forum.