Beyond 9/11: Portraits of Resilience

Posted on 09 September 2011


It’s hard to believe that ten years have passed since the tragic events of September 11, 2001.  My memories of that fateful morning, as did the events themselves, have a surreal quality.  Informed that a plane had struck one of the World Trade Center (WTC) towers, I never imagined that it was a planned attack – thinking instead that it was some light plane that somehow veered off course and accidentally struck one of the towers.  Watching a cable news program on television immediately thereafter, I was dumbstruck as I witnessed a large airliner strike the other tower!  At that instant, I knew that the world and life as I had known it had changed inalterably.  The news of the subsequent attack on the Pentagon and heroic efforts of passengers and crew who sacrificed their own lives in deterring the nefarious purposes of the terrorists who had hijacked United Flight 93 only served to reinforce my conclusion.


Ten years later, I am sad to say that I was right – the world did change and not for the better.  America has lost lives and treasure as a result of wars in Iraq and Afghanistan in attempts to root out terrorism.  And, the cost of those wars has made no small contribution to the sorry state of our economy and national debt.  Yet, the events of 9/11 brought a sense of unity to Americans that had been missing in our nation since the second World War.  Although that feeling may have waned during the last decade, anniversaries, like the one upcoming this Sunday, remind us that the values that we as Americans share far outweigh our differences.


Among the values we share is a deeply rooted love of liberty and equality.  Our forefathers came to this land to escape tyranny and embrace new opportunities.  Embodied in slogans like “manifest destiny,” the American experiment rooted in faith in our Creator became a beacon to the rest of the world.  But, borrowing from the Gospel of St. John, light came into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil.  And so, a relatively small band of those who hate that for which America stands attempted to strike at what they perceived to be the heart of America.


They failed, for one simple reason.  They did not understand the resilience of the American people.  And now, on the tenth anniversary of 9/11, TIME in association with HBO presents Beyond 9/11: Portraits of Resilience, a memorable video collection of dramatic testimonials from U.S. leaders, firefighters, flight attendants, veterans, family members, and, for the first time, survivors who miraculously escaped from above the impact zone of World Trade Center Tower Two.


This moving film focuses on the previously untold stories, captured in words and images, of a group of men and women who led America, moved the nation, and sacrificed for it, in the hours, days, and months that followed September 11, 2001.  Punctuated by archival photos and footage, the film’s real power derives from the expressions on the faces and raw emotions of those interviewed, speaking bluntly about their feelings and experiences, what they have lost, and what has sustained them during the decade since their lives were changed forever.


Fittingly, the documentary airs for the first time on Sunday, September 11th at 8:46 a.m. (ET) – ten years to the minute that American Airlines Flight 11 crashed into World Trade Center One.  As part of a multimedia TIME initiative, the full film will also be available on September 11th on a variety of platforms, including, HBO GO, HBO On Demand, YouTube, the HBO Facebook page, and


For those of you who vividly remember that day – as do I, as well as those whose memories may have faded, this documentary is one you will not want to miss.


May God grant peace to the souls of all the 9/11 victims, comfort to their bereaved loved ones, and wisdom and insight into His Will to us all.  Amen.




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3 Responses to “Beyond 9/11: Portraits of Resilience”

  1. Kathleen Felleca says:

    I’m sorry I saw this too late to see the documentary. I did watch the commemorative ceremony at Ground Zero for several hours on Sunday morning until I could watch no more.

    When I was 16, my boyfriend took me to the roof of his building and pointed across the water to the still-under-construction Twin Towers. With pride, he aid that they would be the tallest buildings in the world. Years later, I learned that my father-in-law to be had helped erect the Towers. Later still, my husband would come to work on the 91st floor of the second Tower (he later found a new job that would eventually take him out of lower Manhattan).

    When 9/11 happened, it was incomprehensible. Like me, every New Yorker feels that they own the streets of the city. What I learned that day is that the only thing we truly own are our hearts and souls. Numerous hearts were opened that day and in the days to come. Although the sacrifices at the hands of cowardly bastards were as enormous as they were unforeseen, I agree with you, Tom: the terrorists did not count on our hearts, souls, and faith to pull us through. They didn’t count on these things as they lack these essential elements of humanity.

    God bless my city, now and forever. God bless America, now and forever.

  2. Sunni says:

    It was a beautiful day. It was a day when you could look up to the sky and see freevor, no clouds, crystal blue and warm sun. Tuesday morning, I had made it through another trudging Monday, and had just finished a phone call to my mom three hours away from my home in suburban Chicago. I leisurely locked up and started up the car to head off towards work to pattern yet another wedding dress for yet another bride more worried about her wedding expenses than she was about the man with whom she was about to marry. I was not even a mile from home when I realized the morning radio banter had changed dramatically. I listened in with the same disbelief for a moment as everyone else did the nation over. Yet I realized it was real. That first tower came down while I rolled on towards work, unknowing what else to do. As I arrived at the studio, most of the world around me still bustled about yet unaware that the day was unlike any other. I have never met with a more surreal moment. It was a moment that must come once or twice at most in a lifetime. That brief hour when every fiber of your being knows that life has just changed but your head doesn’t yet realize it. No one yet realized it. Entering the small studio, I reached for the radio and fumbled with the knob to find WBBM, Chicago’s constant news radio, thoughts flashed strangely back and forth. It is strange how the mind flashes to a long since forgotten memory during a disaster. I had once listened to that station every Sunday morning as my Dad started the morning rituals of readying for church. Every week, Herb Alpert’s trumpet always filled the break between segments at the same time. My mind glimpsed one of those moments for a brief second before returning to the grisly accounts that were streaming out of the little box right then. My boss called then, surprise, she wasn’t coming in again, although on this day, I was a bit relieved. I couldn’t blame her though as her husband was a FEMA employee. She had seen him respond to enough disasterous events to know when it was really bad. By that time, panic had begun to set in across the states. Both my boss and the news were reporting that another plane if not more were believed to be headed towards Chicago. Where would it go? The Sears Tower was an obvious choice. How many were coming? I was selfishly thankful my trip downtown everyday to the fashion offices had taken place the week before that day. I could not imagine being there in that instant. Now that I look back, I am very glad I wasn’t because Chicagoans began a frantic mass exodus from the city. I called Bobby, then my fiancee’. He and the other engineers were glued around the t.v. watching what was happening. There was a cold detachment in his voice as he spoke about the events as if he was watching a sad but unreal story. Knowing he was all right, I chose to sit tight at work and keep my hands busy. I drafted that whole day listening, not seeing. In some ways it was better, but in others worse. It wasn’t until about 6 p.m. That day I saw the footage, when the wonder and disbelief began all over again. I worked through that day and attempted to grasp the larger impact 9/11 would have on many lives, on the whole of life from that point forward. My mind wandered to the fiancee’ I already realized did not love me. I was a trophy of sorts, just the next addition to his collection. I as well was realizing I did not love him with my whole heart either. In those moments, I asked myself, is this really the man I wanted to be married to for the rest of my life? But more than that, was this the kind of man I wanted to be married to the rest of my life? Then my mind raced straight on to what I was doing, here I was, the world as I knew it coming down around me. Would I be satisfied with what I had accomplished if my own life ended today? Maybe some? Certain things, perhaps, or not so much? Fine fabrics, a bunch of patterns, and a portfolio of amazing creations I had designed for stage and runway. Garbage. Beautiful garbage. That split second before I turned on the car radio was the last moment I enjoyed my life as a costume and clothing designer. There was nothing inherently wrong in what I did for a living. I enjoyed it, and it made people relatively happy for a moment. In the honesty of the moment however, I knew that I could spend the rest of my life designing clothing without enjoying it or change course. It was a long road ahead for everyone, and I knew that. I had lived as if we should all live our own life, just let everyone else be, and the world itself would be fine. Bark against political travesty, economic crisis, and hypocrisy through my creative collaboration with artists, and perhaps it would motivate yet someone else to take action while I could be satisfied to know I had sparked emotion, thought or better yet activism. What a waste. Now I have heard it expressed best by one of the firefighters at Ground Zero. He stated, “I realized that up to that point I had denied how evil, evil could be.” And indeed, while I had let go unnoticed how quietly arrogance crept up for my ideal of society, my ignorance of truth had mounted as well. Some changes came quickly after that day as I realized the difference in values between who I was, who God is, and how He would mold me into who I was going to become. Yet, I have found change slower in actually becoming a person of purpose more than ideals, of action more than protest of injustice, and of truth rather than mere vision. It was not easy to change directions, and I watched the effects of that single day wear off countless others who claimed either new found closeness to God or expressed the desire to take time doing more of the important things in life. They meant well, but weighed in balance of daily routines, the staying power of that day was quickly overwhelmed. Likewise, I have found a sense of purpose was not to come without years of diligence. Often our purpose is not so much what we do for a living, but how we live while we are doing it. For the first time, I began to understand my faith and why it has been so strong throughout my life. I also learned the difference between being something in life and being someone in life. I have found that the process did not eliminate how evil the evil could be either. It has meant taking action against injustice in authority when it would have been much easier to walk away. On the other hand, sometimes I have had to learn to hold my tongue in order to fight a greater battle another day. I may have been thirty-one years old already when the towers came down, but I grew up finally and in an instant. That single beautiful day changed countless lives, and I pray that it continues to change mine every day for all of my years.

  3. Tory Soberanes says:

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