The horrific events surrounding September 11 will always serve as a chilling reminder of the unchecked freedom we take for granted in this country. The tremendous loss of life, unbearable heartache and crippling terror many experienced that day are better left forgotten. Yet rising from the ashes and rubble are countless acts of courage, sacrifice and heroism and to that end, HBO’s ’In Memoriam: New York City, 9/11/01’ serves as a quintessential symbol of the human spirit and a preservation piece for future generations.
With Rudolph Giuliani as a guide, ’In Memoriam: New York City, 9/11/01’ pulls unprecedented information from the Mayor’s staff including Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik, Fire Commissioner Thomas von Essen and Director of the Office of Emergency Management Richard Sheirer. The documentary blends visual footage from still and video cameras of more than 100 people in and around New York City, including everyday citizens who were first-hand witnesses to the catastrophic events of the day. The unsettling narrative follows the mayor and his staff from their first realization of what occurred, through the desperation and gloom, concluding with a newfound sense of pride and what it really means to be an American.
Beyond a question of doubt, multiple angles of the jets colliding into the twin towers, soot covered faces, falling rubble (and people), billowing clouds of ash, and twisted wreckage are nightmare inducing. First hand accounts and last minute phone calls from loved-ones trapped inside the towers only heighten the sorrow and madness. And the eerie calm that eventually blankets downtown Manhattan within a shroud of smoke and dust can only be described as surreal.
For obvious reasons, ’In Memoriam: New York City, 9/11/01’ is not a whiz-bang DVD to show off to family and friends. The image quality varies, due to the source material, but overall clarity and color are excellent. Extended interviews with the mayor’s staff are integrated into the actual film and there is a Web-enabled link to HBO.com’s dedicated ’In Memoriam’ Web site which offers people across the country the opportunity to ’remember, reflect and respond’ to the tragic events of September 11.
The DVD also features English, French and Spanish subtitles as well as English 5.1, English Dolby Surround and Spanish Mono Sound. Those who view this DVD in surround sound will be placed directly in the chaos. On more than one occasion, my rear speakers picked up on distant sirens and shouting voices. The haunting, somber music provided by the New York Philharmonic is deep and crisp.
The DVD presentation of ’In Memoriam, New York City 9/11/01’ is a simple, classy package and at the very least, worth a rental if you missed the initial HBO airing. Those who balk at HBO for attempting to cash in on tragedy shouldn’t worry. HBO Video’s net proceeds from the DVD are donated to the Twin Towers fund.