“IN THE SHADOW OF THE TOWERS”

September 12, 2019 at 5:00 am

Students at the prestigious Stuyvesant High School were caught in “The Shadow of the Towers” both during and after the attack. Their story is one you won’t soon forget.

Aired on September 11, 2019. 

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>>> WHEN THE TWIN TOWERS WERE
ATTACKED ON SEPTEMBER 11th,
2001, STUDENTS HAD JUST STARTED
THEIR DAY AT THE PRESTIGIOUS
HIGH SCHOOL IN NEW YORK CITY, A
NEW DOCUMENTARY, IN THE SHAW
DOES, REVISITING THE EVENT
THROUGH CONVERSATIONS OF EIGHT
STUYVESON ALUMNI WHOSE LIVES
WERE CHANGED BY IT.
>> I WAS A SENIOR AT THE HIGH
SCHOOL.
>> I WAS THE CRASH OF THE PLANE
INTO THE NORTH TOWER.
>> I WAS 15 AT THE TIME.
>> AND I CALLED MY FATHER, AND
THIS IS SOMETHING I REMEMBER TO
THIS DAY, MY DAD SAID TO ME,
PLEASE, PLEASE, JUST SURVIVE.
>> HERE WITH MORE IS ALUMNI,
ILYA, AND THE FILM DIRECTOR, AMY
SCHATTS, WELCOME TO THE SHOW.
FIRST OF COURSE WITH A FILM LIKE
THIS, IT'S A STORY WE KNOW
HAPPENED.
WE KNOW STUYVESON HIGH WAS THAT
CLOSE, BUT PEOPLE WHO WEREN'T IN
THE HIGH SCHOOL SEEM TO HAVE
FORGOTTEN THIS STORY, WHY THIS
FILM, AND WHY 18 YEARS LATER.
>> THIS FILM CAME ABOUT BY
ACCIDENT, REALLY, WE WERE MAKING
A CHILDREN'S SHOW, AND I THOUGHT
IT WOULD BE INTERESTING TO
INTERVIEW THE ALUMNI WHO WERE
KIDS AT THE TIME.
I THOUGHT THAT WOULD BE
INTERESTING FOR CHILDREN'S SHOW.
WHAT EVENTUALLY HAPPENED IS ONCE
I STARTED INTERVIEWING THESE
ALUMNI IT BECAME CLEAR IN ASKING
ABOUT THEIR MEMORIES, ABOUT WHAT
HAPPENED THAT DAY, WHAT THEY SAW
THAT IT WASN'T MATERIAL FOR A
CHILDREN'S SHOW.
IT WAS A POWERFUL FILM IN THEIR
STORIES THAT COULD BE FOR TEENS
AND ADULTS AND AN OLDER
AUDIENCE.
THAT'S THE ORIGIN OF IT.
>> I WAS WONDERING IF YOU CAN
TAKE US INTO THE EXPERIENCE OF
RELIVING THAT DAY.
>> INTERVIEWED FROM THE
DOCUMEN
DOCU
DOCUMENTARY WAS THE FIRST TIME I
UNPACKED AT LENGTH WHAT I WENT
THROUGH THAT DAY.
I'M NOT SURE I'VE TALKED TO MY
PARENTS OR CLOSE FRIENDS REALLY
AT LENGTH ABOUT WHAT IT WAS
LIKE, WHAT IT FELT, EVERY TIME
IT COMES UP, I THINK I WAS THERE
ON 9/11, I WAS A FEW BLOCKS
AWAY, AND I OPEN THAT BOX A
LITTLE BIT, AND I JUST, I GET
SOME OF THE THINGS OUT, AND IT
WAS TOUGH, AND IT WAS SURREAL,
AND WE WALKED NORTH AND I CLOSED
THAT BOX UP AND I THINK THIS IS
THE FIRST TIME THAT WE REALLY
WAS INTRO SPECULATIVE, WHAT I
REMEMBERED, WHAT WE FELT, IN A
WAY THAT I DON'T THINK IN, YOU
KNOW, 16 OR 17 YEARS, HOWEVER
LONG IT WAS, UNTIL THE
DOCUMENTARY NEVER THOUGHT ABOUT
IT AT SUCH LENGTH OR TALKED
ABOUT IT.
AND IT'S DIFFICULT TO TALK ABOUT
IT AND ALSO IT'S VERY DIFFICULT
TO WATCH THE DOCUMENTARY WHEN
EVERYONE'S STORIES, HERE ARE OUR
EXPERIENCE, OUR MICROCOSMS OF
THAT DAY, PIECED TOGETHER.
IT TAKES ME BACK, ALL THE
PHOTOGRAPHS AND THE OLD FOOTAGE
IN A WAY THAT I'M NOT SURE I CAN
PUT INTO WORDS.
>> THAT'S COMPLETELY
UNDERSTANDABLE, YEAH.
>> BUT JUST LIKE THIS FEELING OF
SOMEWHAT DREAD, BUT DREAD AT A
VERY DISTANT TIME BUT ALSO NOT
THAT LONG AGO, COMBINATION OF
FEELINGS.
>> WELL, ONE OF THE THINGS I
ALSO THOUGHT WAS SO INTERESTING
IS THE FILM SORT OF FOLLOWS HOW
THE STUDENTS, HOW YOU GUY FELT
ABOUT THE AFTER MATH OF 9/11,
AND AGAIN, BEING SUCH A
PRESTIGIOUS HIGH SCHOOL AND THIS
BEING NEW YORK CITY, IT WAS A
VERY BROWN SCHOOL, AND YOU DEAL
WITH THAT IN THE STORY.
>> IN THE EVACUATION FROM THE
SCHOOL, SOME RACISM WAS
PERCOLATING AND IT WAS ALMOST
IMMEDIATE, RIGHT.
>> SEEMED LIKE.
>> IT SEEMED LIKE IN SOME OF THE
STORIES OF THE INTERVIEWS THAT
DURING THE ACTEVACUATION THE SE
OF FEAR AND VIOLENCE EMERGED.
WE DIDN'T SET OUT TO MAKE THE
FILM, WHICH IS ABOUT THE
AFTERMATH OF THE MUSLIM BACKLASH
AND ALL OF THESE SCENES OF, YOU
KNOW, WHAT IT MEANS TO BE AN
AMERICAN, BUT IT WAS IN THE
TELLING OF MANY OF THESE
PEOPLE'S STORIES, THAT, YOU
KNOW, YOU HEARD ABOUT ON 9/11,
SOMETHING CHANGED FOR THE KIDS
OF COLOR AND THAT THEIR WORLD
HAD CHANGED FOREVER ON THAT DAY.
AND THAT WAS TO ME JUST
COMPLETELY STUNNING TO HEAR
THIS.
>> I BELIEVE THERE'S A SECTION
OF THE FILM WHERE AS YOU'RE
WALKING UP THE WEST SIDE
HIGHWAY, YOU MENTION JUST LIKE
SEEING OTHER STUDENTS OF
NON-WHITE DESCENT, I DON'T KNOW
HOW ELSE TO DESCRIBE IT, SEEING
THEM AND SAYING COME WALK WITH
US SO YOU'RE NOT ALONE RIGHT
NOW.
I'M WONDERING, IN THE YEARS
AFTERWARDS, YOU SAY YOU ALL HAVE
YOUR OWN FEELINGS ABOUT IT, BUT
IS THERE ANYTHING ABOUT THE
AFTER MATH THAT STUCK WITH YOU,
THAT STUCK OUT?
>> SO ACTUALLY, UNTIL THE
DOCUMENTARY, I DIDN'T REALIZE
JUST HOW IMMEDIATE AND UGLY THE
BACKLASH WAS AGAINST STUDENTS OF
COLOR.
I KNEW IT ON A BROAD SCALE, I
READ ABOUT IT, I KNEW IT WAS
HAPPENING, BUT I DON'T THINK I
FULLY PROCESSED HOW BAD IT WAS
FOR PEOPLE, YOU KNOW, HERE IN
NEW YORK, A VERY DIVERSE,
PROGRESSIVE CITY, JUST THE UGLY
SIDE OF HUMAN NATURE COMING OUT,
AND I'M NOT SURE I FULLY
UNDERSTOOD THAT UNTIL I WATCHED
THE DOCUMENTARY AND SAW
EVERYONE'S STORIES COME
TOGETHER.
>> VERY QUICKLY BEFORE THE END,
I DO WANT TO ASK, WHERE DO YOU
WANT THIS FILM TO FIT WITHIN THE
LARGER 9/11 NARRATIVE BECAUSE SO
MUCH OF IT IS OF COURSE AND
RIGHTFULLY SO ABOUT THE FIRST
RESPONDERS, THE PEOPLE WHO
PERISHED THAT DAY, BUT WHERE DO
YOU WANT THIS NARRATIVE TO FIT
WITHIN THE LARGER ONE.
>> IT WAS A STORY ABOUT WHAT IT
WAS LIKE TO BE A YOUNG PERSON AT
GROUND ZERO WHICH IS NOT
SOMETHING WE HEAR FREQUENTLY
ABOUT, AND IT'S ALSO ABOUT THE
EXPERIENCE OF YOUNG PEOPLE WHO
ARE FIRST GENERATION AMERICANS,
SECOND GENERATION OF AMERICANS,
AND HOW THEY BOTH SUFFERED
DURING THIS TIME IN THE YEARS
AFTER 9/11, BUT ALSO HOW THEY
CAME TOGETHER.
SO I THINK THERE'S SOMETHING
REALLY POWERFUL ABOUT YOUNG
PEOPLE, LIKE THINKING ABOUT
YOUNG PEOPLE GOING THROUGH
TRAUMATIC, HORRIBLE EXPERIENCES
AND HOW DEEPLY THEY'RE BOTH
TRAUMATIZED AND HOW THEY ATTEMPT
TO RECOVER.
THERE'S SOMETHING ABOUT THAT
THAT THIS FILMS SPEAK TO.
DO YOU HAVE ANYTHING TO ADD TO
THAT?
>> I THINK THE TIMING, ACTUALLY,
IS REALLY INTERESTING.
18 YEARS, NOT LIKE 15 OR 20
YEARS, AND THIS IS, I THINK,
GOING TO BE THE FIRST YEAR OR
MAYBE AFTER THIS YEAR, THERE
AREN'T GOING TO BE ANY STUDENTS
AT STUYVESANT WHO WERE ALIVE.
THERE WAS A PRE-9/11 WORLD AND
POST-9/11 WORLD AND THAT AFFECTS
PEOPLE IN MINUTE WAYS AND IT'S
GOOD FOR CHILDREN, FOR STUDENTS
TO SEE THAT STORY, TO BE ABLE TO
CONNECT WITH IT.
>> AND OF COURSE THE FILM HAS A
WONDERFUL THEME OF RESILIENCY TO
THE END, IT'S NOT JUST THE
TRAUMA AND DOOM AND GLOOM OF
THAT DAY, BUT THERE'S TONS OF
RESILIENCY.
I WANT TO THANK YOU BOTH SO MUCH
FOR JOINING US ON THE PROGRAM.
THANK YOU FOR SHARING YOUR
STORY, AS LONG AS THE REST OF
YOUR CLASSMATES FROM WHAT
GRADUATING YEAR.
>> 2002.
>> THANK YOU TO THE CLASS OF
2002 FOR SHARING YOUR STORY, AND
THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR SHARING
THIS FILM.
>> THANK YOU.
>> THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR HAVING
US.
>>> IN THE SHADOW OF THE TOWERS,
STUYVESANT HIGH, AIRS TONIGHT AT
11.

Mutual of America PSEG

Funders

MetroFocus is made possible by James and Merryl Tisch, Sue and Edgar Wachenheim III, the Sylvia A. and Simon B. Poyta Programming Endowment to Fight Anti-Semitism, Bernard and Irene Schwartz, Rosalind P. Walter, Barbara Hope Zuckerberg, Jody and John Arnhold, the Cheryl and Philip Milstein Family, Janet Prindle Seidler, Judy and Josh Weston and the Dr. Robert C. and Tina Sohn Foundation.

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