Thursday, March 1, 2007

Sunday, February 11, 2007

The Check Is In The Mail

The transition from California to New York has occupied quite a bit of my time recently as one could imagine. My time has been occupied with getting settled, finding a job, and all of the other myriad of things that come along with moving across the North American continent.

Anyway, one of the great things that comes along with Google's email, GMail, is their little blurb at the top of your inbox which routes you to information that might be of interest to you.

Among the things that appeared at the top of my inbox was a reference to Ask Yahoo and the question "What's the estimated land value of Central Park in New York?"

Rather than keep you guessing, the answer is, according to Jonathan Miller, head of the property-appraisal firm Miller Samuel and published in New York Magazine on 26 December 2006,
$528, 783, 552, 000.

That's $529 billion-with-a-B.

Don't you know that there's just some developer salivating with his checkbook open waiting for the opportunity of those 843 acres of prime Manhattan real estate to open up?

Ciao for now!
Mike

Friday, December 22, 2006

Family History

I haven't discussed it a lot, but since returning to New York, I've gotten (for want of a better word) "embroiled" in helping my brother wrap up some family business, involving the sale of my mother's homestead. (This is property which my father, mother and I purchased in late 1977.)

While cleaning out the place, we've lucked into a treasure trove of family history. There are many photographs and old correspondence and just various things which bring back many memories of "The Journey". Hopefully, at some point, I'll delve into this further.

However, among the correspondence found, are numerous letters from my paternal aunt Pauli. Aunt Pauli did quite a bit of genealogical research on the roots of the Murray family, particularly on its roots in the Fitzgerald family of Durham, NC.

My nephew, earlier this week, tipped me off to a blog which has some historical information on the Fitzgeralds of Durham. It's called Endangered Durham and it includes the following references.
There's also another site referencing Pauli Murray Place that we have to look into.

I suppose, as one gets older, one's heritage becomes more important than it might have been earlier. I just wish I had realized that before now.

Ciao for now!
Mike

Sunday, December 3, 2006

An Example Of Neo-Fascism

News Item: from ABC News

Newly-elected congressman Keith Ellison, who'll be the first Muslim to serve in Congress, sparked a heated debate this week after he revealed his plans to use the Quran during his swearing-in ceremony.

Dennis Prager, Townhall.com

Insofar as a member of Congress taking an oath to serve America and uphold its values is concerned, America is interested in only one book, the Bible. If you are incapable of taking an oath on that book, don't serve in Congress. In your personal life, we will fight for your right to prefer any other book. We will even fight for your right to publish cartoons mocking our Bible. But, Mr. Ellison, America, not you, decides on what book its public servants take their oath.

Amendment I to the Constitution of the United States
ratified 15 December 1791

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof...

Mikeylito comments:

I don't have much to add aside from the fact that had I chose to continue the quote from the Constitution, it would point out that Mr. Prager, by virtue of his exercise of free speech has as much right to say whatever he feels, however misguided. And, just so we're clear, Mr. Ellison has the right to freely exercise his religion, most especially during his swearing-in, insofar as the government does not have an established religion.

Frankly, the level of neo-fascism in America since 9/11 astounds me.

Ciao for now!
Mike

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

When Proclivities Collide: The Sequel

Hidetoshi Nakata and Alessandro dos Santos

Hidetoshi Nakata and
Alessandro dos Santos

I suppose one could never tire of watching futbol in Japan.

Tuesday, November 7, 2006

Say Goodbye To Hollywood

So many faces in and out of my life
Some will last
Some will just be now and then
Life is a series of hellos and goodbyes
I'm afraid it's time for goodbye...
For thirteen years, The Journey took me to Southern California.
And, now, that leg of The Journey is over.
I'm now back in New York, The Empire State.

Say Goodbye to Hollywood.
For me, California meant freedom, independence.
Open skies. Good friends.
As Marlo said once upon a time, "free to be you and me."
For a time, anyway, that leg of The Journey is over.

Well, not all of it.
I'm still free to be me.
It's just that circumstances have made me return to The Big Apple.

The Apple doesn't hold fond memories for me.
In a past life, I wasn't free to be me here.
However, I don't see that changing.
It's just being in a place where I couldn't be happy.
Well... it's made me kind of melancholy.

The good thing about being this far along in The Journey is that I can't imagine ever being the person I was then. Then, when I was in New York the last time. Give a man a taste of freedom and he can never be satisfied with anything less. So, this is just a way station, a stop along the way. This is just a place to stop and get my bearings, before I return to California.

Go west, young man.

Ciao for now!
Mike

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Race To Survive: Semantics

This commentary is rated A for what could be construed as offensive language and for its lack of political correctness. It is an adjunct to the blog Race To Survive, which exists to discuss “the link between popular culture and race … a public forum to discuss, debate, bemoan, and perhaps even celebrate incarnations of race in American popular culture, starting with this fall's lineup of  Survivor: Cook Islands and their division of tribes into 4 major racial categories.”

 

The usage of African Americans is the latest in a long line of monikers that have bothered me over the years. It is the semantic equivalent of the nomads trying to find their way out of the desert.

All of this began many years ago and not surprisingly with the institution of slavery. No one will ever know if Africans would have willingly migrated to America. Logic dictates that at some point, they would have. However, being forcibly migrated to this continent, it laid the groundwork for identity confusion which still occurs today.

I think it's only natural that people tend to want to self-identify. Whether you agree with it or not, that's one of the rationale for gangs: that they bring a sense of belonging to one which is greater than oneself.

In the case of African slaves, it started as soon as they landed on these shores. Take a look at the venerable Constitution of The United States. Slaves were codified as three-fifths of a person. That doesn't jibe with “all men are created equal.” Apparently, slaves weren't human since they didn't quantify in the same number as other Americans.

In the slave community, Africans started to categorize amongst themselves. The terms house nigger and field nigger were born in that time. These terms persist even today. There are others: high yellow, for one; one I note because it has been used on me. Yes, believe it or not, African Americans sometimes make judgments based on whether someone is light-skinned or dark-skinned.

Slave owners and others contributed to the phenomenon, not only with the term nigger itself as well as the term colored people. This term persisted into the 20th century when civil rights activists fought hard to establish and capitalize Negro. In the 1960s and 70s, activists morphed this term to black, which incidentally is the English translation of the spanish word negro. Alternately, some activists used the phrase Afro-American, a term I'm fond of. Yet, again, this term morphed into African American, which is the politically correct term in usage today.

It would be useful to note, as some other commentators have, that the phrase people of color is in common usage today even though most would agree that colored people is still considered a derogatory term. As Linda Ellerbee notes in situations like these: “and so it goes…”

What all of this signifies to me is a racial fragment that has been robbed of its culture. A popular book used in a lot of courseware (or at least I hope it is) is Before The Mayflower: A History of Black America by Lerone Bennett, Jr. It can help African Americans discover a great portion of their cultural heritage. What it cannot do is help us recover our racial identity. I find it somewhat disturbing that my roots in Ireland were more easily traced than my roots in Africa. I have no idea whether I am Senegalese-American or Ghanian-American or Nigerian-American or whatever. Consequently, I am forced to use some quasi-identification: African American. Thinking about it generates a lot of anger.

If you didn't get a sense of why I self-identify as Mike, maybe now you have a clue.

Ciao for now!
Mike

For the record, the author's racial heritage is Irish (County Kildare), Cherokee, and – yes – African American.

For more of the discussion on race in the popular culture of the United States, check out Race To Survive.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Shakes On A Plane

“[She was] biting her fingers, rubbing her feet and in a constant state of movement. She appeared very agitated...”

Submitted for your edification, a woman dressed in a Rolling Stone T-shirt, black pants, and socks without shoes – presumably kept by some overzealous TSA screener like the one Kathy Griffin plays in that Sierra Mist commercial – when she appeared in federal court last August [17].

Catherine C. Mayo

I'm referring to Catherine C. Mayo, 59, of Braintree VT who single-handedly set in motion a series of events which caused a trans-Atlantic flight from London to Washington DC to be diverted to Boston's Logan Airport, its 182 passengers and luggage off-loaded, and American cable news networks to shift into overdrive to out-scoop one another on what at first blush appeared to be a terrorist plot.

In defense of the "news" purveyors, all of this occurred in the aftermath of the alleged plot to blow up nine US-flag airliners over the Atlantic uncovered by British and Pakistani law enforcement and intelligence officals just days before. At that time, 23 people in the United Kingdom and 17 people in Pakistan have been arrested in connection with the alleged plot. The United Kingdom raised its terror alert level to "critical", its highest level. The US government raised its terror alert level to "red" on trans-Atlantic flights between the UK and the US and to "orange" on all other flights, including domestic flights. Both countries also severely restricted items which could be brought into airplane cabins, including liquids, gels, and electronic devices.

On the day of United Flight 923, CNN, MSNBC and FOX News Channel (FNC), bent over backwards to report "breaking news" on the diverted flight. We learned that the flight's captain requested F-15 fighter escort as the flight was re-routed to Boston. At least one of the three cable outlets, while displaying local news video showing the cargo hold being unloaded to the tarmac and examined by bomb-sniffing dogs, reported that carry-on luggage was being examined by those dogs. This despite the view that it was clearly checked luggage being examined. The cable news nets also reported a Logan airport official saying that Mayo had “a cigarette lighter, a screwdriver, and a note referencing Al-Qaida.” Some time later, federal officials denied that these items were found on Ms. Mayo. Approximately, six hours into the story, MSNBC revived the Jon-Benet Ramsey murder case and little was heard about United Flight 293 anymore.

Now, thanks to the Associated Press, eyewitness accounts published in The Telegraph of Alton, IL, and an affadavit filed in Federal court on 17 August and heavily incorporated into this essay, what happened aboard United Flight 923 has become somewhat clearer.

Carolyn Brown of Grafton, IL had the seat next to Ms. Mayo. According to Ms. Brown, “When I got on the plane, this person was already there. She was just sitting there. … After some time sitting there, [Mayo] said, ‘I think you ought to know I'm claustrophobic, ’” Brown recalled. “She said, ‘I'm going to have to get up, and I have a whole procedure I have to do to settle myself down.’ I said, ‘I don't sleep much on planes, so you won't disturb me if you have to get up.’”

According to The Telegraph, Ms. Brown said the flight left at 8 a.m. London time and that they ate breakfast about 90 minutes into the flight. She said that after they ate, Mayo got up.

“She went toward the back of the plane,” Brown said. “I saw her standing in the aisle with her hands on the bulkhead – kind of spread eagle. One of the flight attendants told her she had to sit down. She argued, ’I can't. I have to do this. I'm claustrophobic.’ They said, ‘Sorry, ma'am, you cannot stand here.’ They got her back in the seat, but she continued to banter with them. They said, ‘You have to sit down.’ She said, ‘If I can't stand up and do it in there, I'm going to do it on the exit door.’’

The Telegraph account continues with Ms. Brown saying that she didn't know what Mayo meant by “do it” but thinks Mayo's last statement is what raised the flight crews' security suspicions. Said Ms. Brown, “she was irrational.”

The affadavit, attested to by FBI Special Agent Daniel Choldin, assigned to the Joint Terrorism Task Force in Boston, essentially parallels Ms. Brown's account although it states that flight 293 left London at 8:29am, not 8am. When Ms. Mayo was deterred from pushing against the bulkhead, she asked the flight attendant, at that time, to speak to an air marshal. The affadavit states that Ms. Mayo made a statement to the effect, “I know you want to see what's in my bag.”

The flight attendant (named FA-1 in the affadavit) called the flight deck, requesting that the seat belt sign be turned on. The flight attendant went forward to speak with the first officer and the purser. This group came back to talk to Ms. Mayo, explained the regulations to her and talked very calmly to her. Ms. Mayo seemed calm at that point; however, she asked the flight attendants to turn her in to the air marshals. Ms. Brown was re-seated in first class by the flight crew.

The first officer, purser, and flight attendant apparently left Ms. Mayo seated and withdrew to the business-class galley. Some time later, Ms. Mayo passed a series of notes to the flight crew. One, to the First Officer, asked if Ms. Brown was moved because of her, Ms. Mayo. The First Officer said no and Ms. Mayo asked him to write that on the note and give it back to her. He complied.

Departure Time plus 2 hours 20 minutes

Ms. Mayo requested an unopened can of Pepsi®. After it was given to her, she went to one of the aft lavatories with the soda. When she emerged, she told one of the flight attendants, “I left the Pepsi can in the bathroom – there is something in it.” The flight crew found the open can of soda in the lavatory trash bin. When asked why she had done that, she had no explanation.

According to the Choldin affadavit, sometime later, Ms. Mayo asked flight attendant FA-1, “Is this a training flight for United 93?”, a reference to the fourth hijacked airliner on 11 September 2001 downed by a struggle between the passengers and crew and its flight's hijackers. FA-1 didn't know if Ms. Mayo knew what she was saying or misspoke and referring to flight 293.

During this time frame, the purser observed that Ms. Mayo was biting her fingers, rubbing her feet, and in a constant state of movement. She appeared very agitated. The purser, who ordinarily would have spent most of her time in the first-class cabin, decided to maintain her observation of Ms. Mayo as much as possible.

Departure Time plus 3 hours 30 minutes

Ms. Mayo was observed removing a bottle of water from an overhead compartment. One or more passengers, who had apparently become concerned themselves about Ms. Mayo's behavior, reported that fact to flight attendants. The bottle of water was not one that had been supplied by flight attendants during the flight. FA-1 confiscated the bottle from Ms. Mayo, because liquid was one of the items prohibited by the extraordinary security measures that had recently been implemented. Ms. Mayo put up an argument about relinquishing the bottle.

“[Mayo] had a tote, and I think a purse,” Brown recalled. “Half of the people in Heathrow had a complete body and bag search, but I didn't, and she evidently didn't either or they would have found the stuff prior to the flight.”

Sometime thereafter, Ms. Mayo handed a note to a flight attendant that made reference to her having been in another country illegally. The note expressed concern on her part about having to go through customs when the aircraft landed.

After another trip to one of the lavatories on her side of the fuselage in the aft of the plane, Ms. Mayo accused the flight attendants of going through her bags, asserting that she could tell because her blankets had been moved. She stated that in her bag was film with pictures of a Super 8 in Washington, D.C. and her trip to Pakistan, which she identified as the country she had been in illegally. She stated that the photographs would be awful, and she indicated that they related to the people that she had been with in the mountains of Pakistan.

The Purser informed the Captain of the aircraft that she believed that the aircraft should be landed as soon as possible. In response, the Captain decided to go speak to Ms. Mayo. He was accompanied by the Purser. In the ensuing conversation, Ms. Mayo made a number of bizarre statements to the Captain. Among them, she made reference to there being six steps to building some unspecified thing. The Captain and the Purser both thought she was referring to a bomb. She also stated that she had been in Pakistan, and she made reference to being with people associated with two words. She stated that she could not say what the two words were because the last time that she had said the two words she had been kicked off of a flight in the United Arab Emirates. The Captain and the Purser both believed that she was referring to Al Qaeda.

At the conclusion of his conversation with Ms. Mayo, the Captain returned to the flight deck area. He concluded from his interaction with Ms. Mayo that the threat presented did not just involve an unruly passenger, as he had originally believed, but instead involved a potential threat to the aircraft.

About thirty-five minutes later, Ms. Mayo again used one of the aft lavatories on her side of the plane. Afterward, another passenger used the adjoining lavatory. That passenger had drawn the Purser's attention because he had displayed what struck her as an inordinate interest in the Captain's earlier conversation with Ms. Mayo. Within a matter of minutes after that passenger exited the lavatory, Ms. Mayo got up to use the lavatory yet again. Before she could do so, the flight attendants locked both of the aft lavatories on that side of the plane. They informed Ms. Mayo that she could use one of the other lavatories just on the other side of the galley. After a brief exchange with the flight attendants, Ms. Mayo lowered her pants and urinated on the floor of the cabin just outside the locked lavatories.

The Purser immediately reported Ms. Mayo's actions to the Captain, who directed her to have Ms. Mayo restrained. The Captain also made the decision to divert the flight from its intended destination to Logan Airport.

In response to the Captain's directive, the Purser retrieved plastic flex cuffs and metal handcuffs, and she solicited the assistance of a male passenger. When she got back to the vicinity of the aft lavatories, where Ms. Mayo had remained, another male passenger was there, his assistance having been requested by another flight attendant. (Based on his own observations of Ms. Mayo's behavior during the flight, one of the two male passengers had become concerned that she might be acting as a diversion for a possible terrorist action; he had moved his seat so as to be potentially more useful should something occur.) The Purser informed Ms. Mayo that they were going to handcuff her. Ms. Mayo tried to get away. One of the male passengers restrained her and lowered her to the floor, at which point the Purser applied the flex cuffs to her wrists. She was then seated on the floor of the cabin on the other side of the galley, where she remained for the duration of the flight.

Upon flight 293's diversion to Boston, Ms. Mayo was ordered held without bail on charges of interfering with a flight crew, which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison. On 6 September, five days ago, the New York Times reported that Ms. Mayo was ordered held at a mental health facility in New Hampshire.

According to the Boston Globe, at a press briefing outside the courthouse after the 17 August proceeding, US Attorney Michael J. Sullivan was asked how Ms. Mayo was able to get prohibited items, like the bottle of water, on board. He said, “I really don't have any idea in terms of how those items ended up on this flight.”

Postscript

One reason why this story is so curious to me is that very little has been reported about it since 18 August. In the month ensuing, we've rather been subjected to the media circus surrounding the false confession of John Mark Karr to the murder of Jon-Benet Ramsey, a story which I feel better appeals to the tabloid nature of our three major cable news networks.

In light of the ongoing debate about profiling young Muslim males when seeking out possible terrorists, I would ask you to glance at the family photo accompanying this essay. It's my assessment that Ms. Mayo is neither male or Muslim.

What could have been profiled was Ms. Mayo's behavior. According to an Associated Press interview, Ms. Mayo's son Josh described his mother as a peace activist and said she had been in Pakistan since March. She traveled there often since making a pen pal prior to 11 September 2001, he said. The pen pal hasn't been allowed to visit the U.S., he added.

According to the Boston Globe, Ms. Mayo, in March 2003, walked into the offices of the Daily Times of Pakistan telling editor Najam Sethi that he wanted to vent her anger at America in his pages. In an open letter to her granddaughters published on 24 June 2003, Ms. Mayo wrote: “Governments in the world right now have made terrible decisions and have caused a lot of fear and bloodshed.” She wrote for the Daily Times until July 2003 and then, according to Sethi, “disappeared.”

Several other questions arise. In addition to, apparently, not fully searching Ms. Mayo and Ms. Brown before boarding, why did it take over two hours of Ms. Mayo's strange behavior before she was finally secured? For the cable networks, what makes the story of John Mark Karr more compelling, more newsworthy than that of Catherine C. Mayo? And for my government, how secure can I feel when some of you are intent on profiling physical characteristics rather than behavior?

More thoughts to ponder before your head hits the pillow tonight.

Ciao for now!
Mike

Saturday, September 9, 2006

Second Look: United 93

United 93

4½ stars4½ stars4½ stars4½ stars4½ stars [4½ stars]

This film is rated R.

Rated R for language and some intense sequences of terror and violence.
Running Time: 111 minutes

See, we have the luxury, it seems to me, of going home at night, turning off our TV, and ignoring the way our world is. The reality for the passengers on United 93 and crew was they were forced to confront this. There was no escape for them. They were compelled to answer the question – “What are we going to do?” – and live or die with the consequences.

Paul Greengrass, writer/producer/director, United 93

With less than a week before the fifth anniversary of the attacks on New York's World Trade Center towers and the Pentagon, Universal Pictures released the film United 93 on DVD Tuesday [5]. I reviewed this film last April [29]. For that review, click here.

As I stated in my original review, this is a chilling re-creation of the events of the morning of 11 September 2001 from the perspective of the passengers, crew and hijackers of United flight 93, bound for San Francisco from Newark International Airport.

Unlike the recently Emmy-nominated A&E television film, Flight 93, which I have viewed, and Discovery Channel's The Flight That Fought Back, of which I have viewed a portion, this film is almost totally devoid of melodrama, which is extremely difficult considering the subject matter.

In addition to the outstanding film contained on the DVD, there are several additional features. An excellent compliment to the film itself is the sobering commentary of one of four producers, that of writer/director Paul Greengrass. The quote I opened this essay with is from that commentary. Many directors' commentaries tend to be about the technical aspects of filmmaking and this one has those elements as well. However, the Greengrass commentary also takes us behind the events of the day and how his cast and crew meticulously went about re-creating them.

After listening to the commentary, one realizes that Greengrass has taken history and turned it into an allegory. (No personal insights here; Greengrass openly refers to it.) It would be disingenuous to suggest that Greengrass' commentary is apolitical, but he keeps most of his political commentary to himself. However, his thoughts on a post-9/11 world are – well… – sobering.

Separate from the film is United 93: The Families and the Film, a one-hour documentary by Kate Sullivan on how the filmmakers, actors included, collaborated with the families on the film and their perspectives before and after viewing the film. For those who say films about 11 September are "Too soon", watch this first.

Finally, there is Memorial Pages, forty written biographies of the passengers and crew of United flight 93.

The main title is extremely accessible with both Dolby Surround 5.1 and optional subtitles in three languages: English, Spanish, and French. There is the aforementioned feature commentary by Paul Greengrass. The film also contains a DVS (Descriptive Video Service) track for the blind or visually impaired. (Unfortunately, the DVS track contains some unintended humor.)

Early on in his commentary, Greengrass reminds us that it was not only four USA-flag airliners that were hijacked that day, but also the religion of Islam. We'd do well to remember what else can be hijacked as we enter the convergence of the political season with the fifth anniversary of our latest day of infamy.

Ciao for now!
Mike

Wednesday, August 9, 2006

Now Playing: World Trade Center


World Trade Center

3½ stars3½ stars3½ stars3½ stars3½ stars [3½ stars]

This film is rated PG-13.

Rated PG-13 for intense and emotional content, some disturbing images and language.


This is a lengthy essay and may contain spoilers.

At the end of April, British documentarian Paul Greengrass gave us a harrowing re-creation of the only one of four hijacked airliners which didn't reach its target in the docudrama United 93. Now, American filmmaker Oliver Stone recounts the memories of two Port Authority (PA) policemen who survived the attacks on the Twin Towers on 11 September 2001.

The name "Oliver Stone" conjures up thoughts of conspiracy theories and the like. However, in World Trade Center, Stone has given us a film based solely on the recollections of the two policemen (and their wives) that this story follows. It is a story about the human spirit. It is about fear and fraility as well as strength and courage.

Nicolas Cage plays John McLoughlin, a patrol sergeant with the Port Authority stationed at the authority's midtown bus terminal. On the morning of 11 September, McLoughlin awakens early to prepare for his day at work. Stone deftly lets us know without a whole lot of exposition that there's trouble in the McLoughlin marriage. The sergeant rolls out of bed without so much as disturbing his wife. He showers, dresses and checks in on his children. He then makes the drive into New York City to begin his day.

Through a variety of establishing shots and background radiocasts, Stone lets us know that it is what passes (then) as a normal day in New York. Meanwhile, rookie patrolman Will Jimeno (Michael Peña) jumps in his SUV and heads to work as well. After a time, Stone takes us to morning roll call at the bus terminal's police sub-station where McLoughlin makes routine assignments for the day.

Jimeno, after bantering with his buddy Dominick Pezzulo (Jay Hernandez), heads out to Eighth Avenue to begin his assignment. Our first inkling that something is wrong is when Jimeno hears a jet roar overhead and we see the shadow of an airliner against a nearby building. In short order, the various members of the squad hear a code on their radios which they recognize as an emergency order to report back to the substation. As Jimeno, Pezzulo and their colleagues return, they see newscasts of the crippled North Tower. Speculation starts to run rampant about what has happened at the Trade Center.

McLoughlin assembles a team and commandeers a city bus for his team's trip downtown. On the bus, the patrolmen speculate on what has actually happened. One of the patrolmen has talked to his wife and learned that a second plane has hit the South Tower. Meanwhile, in a department Suburban, McLoughlin and his lieutenant (Kassimatis, played by Nick Damici) discuss the rescue plan for the Towers. It's here where we learn that McLoughlin helped draw up emergency plans for the Trade Center complex after the 1993 terrorist bombing. However, McLoughlin lets Kassimatis know that there's nothing in their plans to cover the scenario facing them.

Once downtown, McLoughlin asks for volunteers to go into the Towers. After some hesitation, Jimeno, Pezzulo and a few others step forward. What follows is nightmarish as McLoughlin and his team set about gathering equipment to help rescue people in the Towers. There are sheets of paper everywhere, falling debris, and the frightful sounds of explosions and the buildings shuddering.

Just as McLoughlin's team has gathered all the equipment that they need, the tower above them starts to shudder and McLoughlin, realizing what is happening, shouts “Run!” McLoughlin and his team head for an area between the two towers which McLoughlin knows holds the best chance for their survival. However, we soon learn that only McLoughlin, Jimeno and Pezzulo seem to have survived.

From this point forward, we're watching what those three officers did to survive and what those above did to rescue them. Interspersed with these images are how the officers' families deal with the uncertainty of not knowing whether their husbands are dead or alive. We particularly follow the tribulations of Donna McLoughlin (Maria Bello) and Allison Jimeno (Maggie Gyllenhaal) as they wait for word about their missing husbands while trying to cope with their families around them.

What happens to McLoughlin, Jimeno and Pezzulo after the towers collapse is positively frightening. Stone doesn't spare us any intensity as we view what happens below and above the rubble.

I should mention the performance of Michael Shannon who plays ex-Marine Dave Karnes. Karnes, who was an accountant who decided to go to New York to help search for survivors of the attack. Karnes calmly leaves work, gets his hair cut, dresses in Marine fatigues, and heads for Ground Zero. Save for the fact that this part of the story is based in reality, this would seem incredulous. Karnes is single-minded in his attempt to find survivors. When he, along with fellow ex-Marine PFC Dave Thomas (William Mapother), finds the buried PA patrolmen, it brings one of the few uplifting moments in the film. When Jimeno pleads for Karnes not to leave, Karnes simply states “You are our mission!”
[The identity, until last week, of the second Marine was unknown to investigators and filmmakers. However, it is now known that he is former Marine Sgt. Jason Thomas. You can read about Karnes and Thomas in the articles cited at the end of this essay.]
World Trade Center is heart-wrenching while at the same time exasperating. Unlike United 93, which more or less took place in real time, this film takes place in compressed time. With the amount of narrative that Stone has to cover, that shouldn't be such a big problem. However, despite a running time of two hours and five minutes, I would like to have seen just a tad more exposition leading up to the critical events. Also, since a great deal of the narrative takes place beneath the rubble, the film tends to be claustrophobic and sluggish. The nature of the material also tends to make this film much more melodramatic than United 93.

All in all, this is a film worth seeing. It exposes the raw elements of human nature but also the triumph of human spirit. It makes an excellent bookend with United 93.

At the close of the film, we learn that 2,749 people died in the Twin Towers attack. Only 20 people survived.

Ciao for now!
Mike


Trailer



In the aftermath of the World Trade Center disaster, hope is still alive. Refusing to bow down to terrorism, rescuers and family of the victims press forward. Their mission of rescue and recovery is driven by the faith that under each piece of rubble, a co-worker, a friend, a family member may be found. This is the true story of John McLoughlin and William J. Jimeno, two of the last survivors extracted from Ground Zero and the rescuers who never gave up. It's a story of the true heroes of that fateful time in the history of the United States when buildings would fall and heroes would rise, literally from the ashes to inspire the entire human race.


Related Links
  • 1Rebecca Liss,
    “An Unlikely Hero: The marine who found two WTC survivors”,
    Slate.com, 10 September 2002,
    <http://www.slate.com/?id=2070762>, (9 August 2006)
  • 2Nancy Weiner (ABC News), ABC World News with Charles Gibson,
    “Unknown Hero Discovers Himself in ‘World Trade Center’”,
    ABCNews.com, 9 August 2006,
    <http://abcnews.go.com/WNT/story?id=2293067>, (9 August 2006)
  • 3Rebecca Liss,
    “Oliver Stone's World Trade Center Fiction: How the rescue really happened.”
    Slate.com, 9 August 2006,
    <http://www.slate.com/id/2147350/>, (12 August 2006)