In August, Starz Cable programmed two films about the World Trade Center that brought memories of where I was when the Towers were destroyed.
The 2008 documentary–Man on Wire–brought to the screen Phillippe Petit’s journey of his determination to walk on a wire between the roofs of the two World Trade Towers. The film received 45 awards, one being a 2009 Academy Award for Best Documentary.
The second film was The Walk, a 2015 docudrama starring Joseph Gordon Levitt as Petit, retelling the wire walker’s life story that began when he was a young street juggler in Paris. After Petit reads an article in a French newspaper about construction of the two towers, he is determined to attach a wire between the roofs and walk from one building to the other. His dream came to fruition on August 7, 1974.
Shortly after 8:30 on the morning of September 11, I’m driving along the Doylestown Bypass for an appointment with my broker. I’m running late and amused while listening to the morning sports talk radio guys joke about some athlete’s faux pas. Suddenly one says, “Oh–we just got a bulletin that a plane crashed into one of the towers at the World Trade Center in New York City.”
Right then I’m asking myself, How does a “… plane … crash” into a World Trade Center building?
Now in the conference room surrounded by documents and with a television newscaster’s words drifting from the next office, it’s confirmed that two jets crashed into each of the World Trade Towers. The broker returns to the conference room and tells us, “They just hit the Pentagon.”
The third attack is aborted over the skies of Somerset County in western Pennsylvania . This time passengers on United Airlines Flight 93 learn that something tragic has happened in New York City and Washington DC. They overpower the hijackers and the jet drops and crashes onto a field, stopping a destruction that was aimed at our Heart of Democracy.
For the next few weeks like many other Americans I sit in front of my television, mesmerized by the images on the screen. People begin gathering at sites near the destroyed Towers posting pictures and messages for their lost loved ones. There are faces upon faces of photos of people who were in those two buildings and are now missing or possibly dead. Media coverage of interviews with relatives, friends or coworkers describe the lives of the missing–where they lived, who they married, their families and where they worked inside the Towers.
The number of Twin Tower deaths eventually reaches 2,606 with an additional 343 firefighters, 37 Port Authority Police Officers, 23 Police Officers, and 2 Paramedics. All total, nearly 3,000 people died from the three airline hijackings; in the World Trade Towers; and inside the Pentagon. Among that number are 18 Bucks County residents who are memorialized at The Garden of Remembrance, located at 1950 Woodside Road in Yardley. Their website announces this year’s annual ceremony to happen this Sunday, September 11.
The history of the two Towers reaches back decades. The first tenants moved into the North Tower during December 1970. In September 1971, tenants began moving into the South Tower. Once described as “two filing cabinets” said offhandedly by a character in The Walk, after Petit’s unbelievable feat two other characters tell him, “You have given The Towers Soul.” Another says, “They’re different now, because you walked up there.”
There’ve been many films on our small and large screens with images of the Towers, either with the sun bouncing off the gleaming walls or lights peeking out at us from the night sky. Whenever the Towers briefly appear in films, the words spoken by the characters in The Walk are absolute: They are truly “different”. Just a few weeks ago I watched a Hollywood film that flashed the buildings’ images on my television screen. And once more, it was like discovering a photo of a long lost friend: The souls of September 11. Always remembered.