A&E // 2010 // 261 Minutes // Rated
Reviewed by Judge Kent Dixon (Retired) // September 11th, 2011
The morning everything changed.
September 11, 2001. North Americans went about their business as if it were any other day. Children played and went to school, commuters made their way from home to their jobs; it was an average day. But at 8:46 a.m. EST, something happened that would not only change how that day would unfold, but also how many of us, whether we lived in New York or not, would live our lives from that moment on.
There are likely very few people who have not at least in some way heard of 9/11, as it has come to be known. Nineteen hijackers took control of commercial flights that departed from Boston, Newark and Washington, D.C., rerouting them to New York and, using them as airborne bombs, crashed them into the World Trade Center's North and South Towers. Shortly after the attack, all aircraft within the continental U.S. were grounded, and aircraft already in flight were told to land immediately. In addition, all international civilian aircraft were either turned back or redirected to airports in Canada or Mexico, and all international flights were banned from landing on U.S. soil for three days.
The impact and burning jet fuel would not only kill hundreds of innocent people around the time of impact, but would ultimately kill 2,996 people, including the 19 hijackers and their victims, as the heat from the fires created structural instability that caused the buildings to collapse on the city below. It was a day that brought the world to an immediate standstill, not only as the events unfolded on the morning of the attacks, but for weeks later as the search for survivors continued and the loved ones of the victims came to terms with the horrific and senseless act of terrorism on the United States by foreign terrorists. For many, the events of 9/11 were the first time they felt they had stared into the face of evil.
We live in an age of what a friend and media relations mentor of mine refers to as the "I-witnesses." With the availability of high-quality recordings through portable devices, and the near instantaneous capability to post images and video online, most of us have the potential to be amateur journalists who can capture events as they happen, long before a traditional media outlet can arrive; this was the case with the events of 9/11. In New York City's most densely-packed borough, with a population of nearly 1.6 million, there were likely hundreds or even thousands of average folks who managed to capture images and video of one of the most horrific events in U.S. history. History Channel and A&E have pulled together an amazing volume of that content with the release of September 11th: Memorial Edition.
Memorial Edition pulls together five previously-released documentaries on 9/11, spread over two discs as follows:
* "102 Minutes That Changed America" -- Produced by the History Channel and airing commercial-free on September 11, 2008, the film tells the story of the 9/11 attacks minute by minute, using actual footage from many sources as the photographers and videographers relate their personal experience from the day. The film won four Primetime Emmy Awards in 2009.
* Bonus: "I-Witness to 9/11" -- Taking a similar approach to "102 Minutes," this short documentary zeroes in on a smaller group of nine eyewitnesses, showing the footage as they saw it through their lenses, adding a more personal sense of the horror of 9/11.
* "Hotel Ground Zero" -- Premiering on the History Channel on September 11, 2009, this documentary features the 22-story Marriott World Trade Center Hotel and explores the experiences of the survivors of 9/11 who were guests at the Marriott as the Towers literally fell down on top of them. With the building reinforced after the previous terrorist attacks in 1993/94, 44 survivors made it out of the Marriott alive, defying unimaginable odds.
* "The Miracle of Stairwell B" -- While the North Tower collapsed all around them, 14 people survived inside a small section of the stairwell and were buried for more than four hours before being rescued. This documentary focuses quite a lot on the New York Fire Department men and women, some of whom perished in the attacks, who gave everything they had to come to the aid of their fellow New Yorkers.
* "The Day the Towers Fell" -- Featuring additional accounts from amateur and professional photographers, this documentary focuses more on still images and is supported by a stark and haunting soundtrack.
There are more images and video of the events gathered in this release than the average person would otherwise likely ever see in their life. Be warned: there are viewer discretion warnings at the beginning of many of these documentaries and they are there for a reason. While it is important for us to remember the horror and loss of human life that happen on 9/11, many of the images and video included here would likely prove to be too much for younger children and possibly even some adults.
It would be insulting to rate a release like this harshly based on the quality of the video and still images that were used. The majority of the footage included is in 1.78:1 non-anamorphic widescreen, with some short elements included as 4:3 full frame. The quality of the video and images varies widely, but the quality only serves to enhance the power and immediacy of the experience. The 2.0 audio mix is clear and free of distortion delivering some of the most haunting sounds you may ever hear.
The only extra feature included with this release is the bonus documentary "I-Witness to 9/11" mentioned above. It would have been interesting to see an interactive or text-based timeline of the events as they occurred. What struck me most as I watched the documentaries was just how quickly the Towers went down, from the initial attack until they collapsed on the city below.
It's gratifying while watching this footage to know there was some justice and closure for the families and survivors of 9/11 on May 2, 2011. September 11th: Memorial Edition is a powerful chronicle of the events of September 11, 2001. We must remember these events, the lives that were lost, and the triumph of human spirit that allowed the people of New York not only to survive, but stand proud and rise up again.
Review content copyright © 2011 Kent Dixon; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
* 1.78:1 Non-Anamorphic
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 261 Minutes
Release Year: 2010
MPAA Rating: Rated
* IMDb: 102 Minutes that Changed America
* IMDb: Hotel Ground Zero
* IMDb: The Miracle of Stairway B
* IMDb: The Day the Towers Fell