The events of Sept. 11, 2001, will unfold again and again this week as the media — especially television — build up to the 10th anniversary of that tragic day.
Specials are scheduled on everything from how the children of 9/11 victims are doing 10 years later to efforts to build a memorial on the site where the World Trade Center crashed down. The National Geographic channel will provide wall-to-wall coverage and all the major networks will culminate their efforts with various memorials next Sunday on the actual day of the anniversary.
That’s not counting the various related movies, novels, and music that will be pored over in the next week as Americans grapple with what was undoubtedly one of the most public tragedies in history, an event that was broadcast live on a Tuesday morning for all the world to see.
Suffice to say, we will relive the events of Sept. 11, 2001, over and over in the next week, which to Syracuse University pop culture professor Robert Thompson is a good thing.
"I think 10 years later is a good time to rethink how we feel about 9/11," he said in a telephone interview. "Going back and contextualizing that is an important thing to do. When it was covered on Sept. 11 we had no context, no perspective. [At the time it was] terror and horror and now after 10 years we can go back and look at those images and how it was covered and look at how we felt about it."
Anniversaries provide an important opportunity to go back and examine history from a fresh vantage point, even if it means reliving something that’s painful, Thompson said.
"What happened on that day is not something that should be shied away from. Those things happened. I always felt that shying away from those images of people falling from those buildings... I had a problem with that because it showed that those weren’t just buildings — they were buildings filled with people."
It’s also important to consider that many young adults now were children 10 years ago, in school and protected from the images of the planes crashing into the buildings. They need the history lesson that the anniversary coverage provides, according to Thompson.
"Kids were probably one of the few categories [of people] who weren’t seeing this when it was being covered because they were in school," he said.
His thoughts were echoed by Jeremy Wallach, associate professor of pop culture at Bowling Green State University, who lived in New York at the time of the attacks.
"I think it will be a stark reminder of how much our lives have changed. It has totally changed the experience of flying and really changed a lot of people’s perspective of the world and our place in it," he said.
Like Thompson, he has used the anniversary as a learning tool for his students, many of whom were more concerned with finding cartoons when television was dominated with 9/11 coverage in the days after the attacks.
Wallach also said the fact that the NFL is starting its season next Sunday, just hours after the 9/11 commemorations have ended, is inappropriate.
"If it were up to me I would not juxtapose those two things," he said. "There is a long tradition of postponing sporting events in recognition of various somber observances. It’s a bit jarring. I’m not sure whose decision that was, but I would guess they are not a New Yorker, but I could be wrong."
Wallach said that New Yorkers have a more profound level of sadness about the events than people throughout the country and he hoped that the coverage will be "therapeutic."
With that in mind, here is a look at some of the highlights of how 9/11 is being handled on TV and in popular culture:
● Even the funny pages next Sunday are basically being turned over to 9/11 as cartoonists offer tributes. One of the most poignant is Baby Blues, in which the baby is stacking a pile of blocks that look like the World Trade Center as his family looks on. It’s subtle and effective.
● The FX drama Rescue Me starring Denis Leary will air its last episode Wednesday night. The show about a New York firefighter has long dealt with the aftermath of the World Trade Center collapse with the events of 9/11 casting a shadow over the show’s seven seasons.
● The Love We Make is documentary filmmaker Albert Maysles’ behind-the-scenes look at Paul McCartney in the days and hours leading up to his Concert For New York, which occurred about a month after the tragedy. Airing Friday on Showtime, the documentary had been shelved until recently when McCartney urged Maysles to put it together. The result is a fascinating exploration of one man’s efforts to help and what the world looks like from the point of view of a former Beatle.
Here’s a look at some of the shows that will air throughout the week. Check The Blade’s TV listings for times and channels:
Heroes of the 88th Floor, TLC. Focusing on rescue efforts at Port Authority offices on the 88th floor of the north World Trade Center tower.
Children of 9/11, NBC. Documentary following children who lost a parent in the attacks.
Top Secret America, PBS. Journalist Dana Priest examines how a decade of fighting terrorism has changed the country.
Footnotes of 9/11, CNN. Profiles eight people mentioned in the footnotes of the 9/11 Commission report about what happened to them on Sept. 11.
Terror in the Dust, CNN. Dr. Sanjay Gupta discusses health concerns of people who spent time at Ground Zero.
Engineering Ground Zero, PBS. About construction at the World Trade Center site.
Faith and Doubt at Ground Zero, PBS. Rerun of Frontline report about how the attacks affected religious faith.
Beyond Bravery: The Women of 9/11, CNN. Profiles female rescue workers at the World Trade Center.
Friday 9/11: Timeline of Terror, Fox News Channel. Shows how the events of Sept. 11 happened in real time.
Beyond 9/11: Portraits of Resilience, CNN. The stories of 40 people who led and sacrificed in the hours and weeks after the attacks.
Dateline NBC, NBC. Two-hour special with NBC anchor Tom Brokaw reviewing the attacks and talking to some people he interviewed a decade earlier.
9/11: The Days After, History. Documenting the aftermath of the attacks.
Voices From Inside the Towers, History. Stories about people trapped in the World Trade Center, using audio records.
On Native Soil, MSNBC. Documentary narrated by Kevin Costner and Hilary Swank about the 9/11 Commission.
9/11: 10 Years Later, CBS. Rerun of insider’s account at the World Trade Center, freshened with new interviews with people involved. Robert De Niro returns as host.
America Remembers: 9/11, PBS. Evening recap with NewsHour team examining the impact of Sept. 11 in different communities.
The New York Philharmonic 10th Anniversary Concert for 9/11, PBS. Remembrance concert.
Remembrance and Renewal: Ten Years After the 9/11 Attacks, ABC. Evening special looking back on the anniversary and aftermath of attacks.
The Making of the 9/11 Memorial, History. Behind-the-scenes view of the memorial from idea to construction.
102 Minutes That Changed America, History. Rerun of documentary, starting at precise anniversary of when the first plane hit the World Trade Center.
The Space Between, USA. Film with actress Melissa Leo portraying a stewardess on a plane grounded on 9/11 who travels across the country with a 10-year-old boy whose father worked at the World Trade Center.
Twin Towers, USA. Academy Award-winning documentary about brothers, a New York City police officer and firefighter, killed on Sept. 11.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Contact Rod Lockwood at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6159.