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Published: Sunday, 9/11/2011

9/11 lives on in movies, music, even comedy

BY KIRK BAIRD
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Becky London and Tom O'Rourke as Jean and Donald Peterson comfort one another aboard United Airlines Flight 93 in the unflinching drama "United 93." Becky London and Tom O'Rourke as Jean and Donald Peterson comfort one another aboard United Airlines Flight 93 in the unflinching drama "United 93."
UNIVERSAL STUDIOS Enlarge

United 93 opened in theaters nationwide to critical acclaim in April, 2006. Months earlier, the trailer for the film -- a tense re-enactment of the hijacked flight that crashed in Pennsylvania -- was famously derided by audience heckles of "Too soon!"

"Too soon" seems so distant and quaint now -- especially today on the 10th anniversary of the attacks.

Sept. 11 has become a cottage industry in our popular culture. Everyone was affected by that hellish morning. And many can't resist sharing their scars with the rest of us.

Musicians flocked to the theme. Bruce Springsteen wrote a tribute album to it in The Rising. Neil Young celebrated the heroes of Flight 93 with "Let's Roll." Tori Amos sang of a woman looking down on the rubble from 13,000 feet above. And Toby Keith spoke of vengeance in "Courtesy of the Red, White, and the Blue (the Angry American)."

Writers explored the attacks and the aftermath in an assortment of fiction (Terrorist by John Updike and Falling Man by Don DeLillo) and even nonfiction (the bestselling The 9/11 Commission Report).

Filmmakers followed United 93's lead with sobering examinations of a post-9/11 world including the Adam Sandler 2007 drama Reign Over Me about a suicidal New Yorker who lost his family in the attacks, and what life is like as a black Muslim in an increasingly wary society in the film Mooz-lum.

Networks saturated the airwaves with an inexhaustible supply of news shows, documentaries, and specials raking the disaster for entertainment and educational purposes, while the acclaimed TV series Rescue Me is the story of New York City firefighters, many of whom are struggling with the nightmares of that morning.

Not so long ago the idea of laughing at Sept. 11 seemed impossible. Mere weeks after the tragedy, Gilbert Gottfried tried and failed in his monologue during a Friars Club roast of Hugh Hefner, saying he had to leave the show early that night to fly to L.A. "I couldn't get a direct flight, I have to make a stop at the Empire State Building," to which someone yelled out, "Too soon!"

Comedians have long since stopped shying away from jokes about the events (check out David Cross' comedy CD It's Not Funny: "... Do you think on Sept. 11th that the people who work at the New York-New York Casino [in Las Vegas] felt it a little deeper?"). Online parodies have popped up too. (CollegeHumor.com's Stormtroopers' 9-11 short features a trio of stormtroopers having drinks in a cantina and lamenting the destruction of the Death Star from the first Star Wars movie: "If you don't rebuild, then the Jedis win.")

For a nation that once collectively said it was "too soon" to discuss the tragedy, we are spending a lot of time living with it, reading about it, watching it, and now laughing about it.

Search YouTube for "Sept. 11" videos and you'll find hundreds of clips analyzing and addressing the attacks, raw footage of the chaos that forever freezes those horrifying moments in time, and the eerie final recordings of those aboard the hijacked planes and those trapped in the burning World Trade Center minutes before the towers collapsed. YouTube also hosts dozens of conspiracy documentaries from "truthers" doubting the veracity of the terrorists' responsibility for the Sept. 11 deaths and destruction -- their contention is that a shadowy agency of the U.S. government is behind it all.

Not long ago many of us had a difficult time reliving that day. And now we can't seem to move beyond it.

"Too soon?"

Hardly.

Contact Kirk Baird at: kbaird@theblade.com or 419-724-6734.



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