Reliving September Eleventh
September 11th, 2001, is a day that is recognizable to all Americans. It was the day
where terrorists hijacked multiple commercial airplanes: crashing two of them into the World Trade Center towers, one into the side of the Pentagon and a fourth one headed towards the U.S. Capitol before it was overtaken by passengers and diverted to a field in Pennsylvania. It was the day that claimed the lives of nearly three-thousand Americans. In 2011, a memorial opened at the site of the attacks where the World Trade Center’s once stood. At the memorial there are twin reflecting pools with the names of all of those who lost their lives engraved into the panels alongside the pools. In 2016, the History Channel created a video titled New Yorkers Remember 9/11, Fifteen Years Later (Historychannel). The video focuses on the stories of six individuals, some of whom worked in the World Trade Center, some who worked in the city and some of which worked for the fire departments that were deployed to the scene that day. They all look back on the event and remember it as a day where they were given a second chance at life, while many others lost theirs. Through the use of music, voice overs, and video editing, the video is able to evoke an emotional response from its audience, the American people, while demonstrating that this is an event that still strongly impacts America today.
The video begins by showing different camera angles of where the towers used to stand in order to evoke the audience’s memory of notable places in New York, where a clear view of the towers used to exist. To an audience of non-New Yorkers, this simply shows them the different views that individuals used to be able to see the towers at, however, to the New Yorkers who lived there before or during September 11th, it elicits a stronger emotional response. The camera angles came from behind different buildings or from the street underneath an overpass, where the towers used to be visible. The World Trade Center towers were an iconic view to New Yorkers, a view that many would see every day on their way to work. By showing the angle from under the overpass, it is a reminder of how prevalent the image of the towers was to New Yorkers and the various camera angles signify the extent of the loss. A visual that they used to see every day, now completely gone. It is impactful and emotional.
The video then shifts to close-ups of the roses that people have left on the memorial and then different shots of people there paying their respects. The first woman who began telling her story had worked on the 82nd floor of one of the towers. Video footage of the New York skyline with blue skies popped into the screen as she described how happy she was to go to work where her desk looked out of the window of the 82nd floor and how silent it was throughout the office just moments before the plane crashed. This is where the calming piano music in the background stopped and video footage of the towers on fire appeared in the screen. As the stories progressed to what took place when the tragedy unfolded, video clips of the planes crashing into the towers and people running from the towers emerged while their voices still narrated their stories in the background.
The use of background music, voice overs and video cuts, strongly evokes an emotional response in the audience by making them feel as if they were experiencing that day first hand. The footage of the buildings on fire and debris falling everywhere allowed for everyone in the audience – like myself – to really comprehend the images that the survivors were describing. It forces us to put ourselves in their shoes and think about how terrified we would feel if we had to escape from the 82nd floor of a burning building or how fearful we would be as someone on the outside, not knowing if our friends, families, and colleagues were okay. The video clips allowed us to visualize the chaos and put ourselves in that environment, while the voice overs of the individual experiences allowed us to experience the tragedy in multiple different perspectives. The different perspectives demonstrated the similarities between everyone’s experiences. The attack on the World Trade Centers elicited a fear in every New Yorker that day. A fear that will resonate with them throughout the rest of their lives.
The video was produced by the History Channel which is a well-known and credible
source. Moreover, the individuals in the video were able to provide exact details of their day and where they worked and in which of the Trade Centers or for what fire department. They now work for the September 11th Memorial, Ground Zero. They are targeting the American people as their audience with this memorial video because they are the ones who it impacted most directly and the ones that it still affects today. The video was published to YouTube shortly before the fifteenth anniversary of the tragedy. This was the fifth anniversary of the memorial opening and a decade and a half after the tragedy. This makes the kairotic appeal of the video very strong. While it wasn’t a full decade or two decades after the attacks, it was a good milestone to have an update from the survivors and see what they are doing now – working at the memorial.
Even as someone who did not live in New York City and was not old enough to truly
remember the details of where I was or what I was doing when the event took place, I still feel a deep connection to this tragedy from just being a fellow American. From the viewpoint of someone who had lost family, friends, or colleagues in the attack, I would imagine the pathos of this video would be even stronger than it already is or at least evoke stronger emotions from that audience because they were personally affected and lived through this tragedy.