“IN THE SHADOW OF THE TOWERS”

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. 

TRANSCRIPT

> 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.

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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