LIFE REBORN AT GROUND ZERO

September 12, 2019 at 4:45 am

Come inside the planning and development of the World Trade Center Memorial Plaza and the most overlooked and natural aspects of this somber yet magnificent setting.

Aired on September 11, 2019. 

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>>> THE NATIONAL SEPTEMBER 11th
MEMORIAL IS A TRIBUTE OF
REMEMBRANCE TO THE WORLD TRADE
CENTER, SHANKSVILLE,
PENNSYLVANIA, AND THE PENTAGON
AS WELL AS THE SIX PEOPLE KILLED
IN THE WORLD TRADE CENTER
BOMBING IN FEBRUARY 1993, FOR
MORE THAN FIVE YEARS, A
DOCUMENTARY CHRONICLES THE
BUILDING OF THE 9/11 OUTDOOR
MEMORIAL PLAZA TELLING THE STORY
BEHIND ONE OF THE MOST OVER
LOOKED ASPECT OF THE MEMORIAL,
THE TREES.
THIS FILM TELLS THE STORY OF THE
400 SWAMP WHITE OAKS THAT MAKE
UP ONE OF THE CITY'S LARGEST
URBAN FORESTS AND DEPICTS THE
EMOTIONAL STORY OF LIFE
RETURNING TO GROUND ZERO.
>> THE THING THAT MADE ME CRY
WAS THE TREES.
IT WAS THE FIRST SIGN OF LIFE
HERE.
LIFE DOES RISE FROM THIS RUBBLE,
FROM THIS MESS.
>> WE'RE RESTORING OURSELVES,
WE'RE COMING BACK.
WE'RE NEW YORK.
THESE TREES WILL BRING THAT
SENSE OF RESTORATION AND
SERENITY HERE.
>> THE DIRECTOR OF THE TREES,
SCOTT ELLIOT AND THE EXECUTIVE
PRODUCER, KATHERINE DREW JOIN ME
NOW TO TALK ABOUT THIS.
WELCOME TO BOTH OF YOU.
IT'S A MARVELOUS FILM.
FOR THOSE OF US WHO LIVED
THROUGH THIS, YOU KNOW, WHO WERE
DOWN AT THE SITE SHORTLY
THEREAFTER AND HAVE BEEN ABLE TO
SEE WHAT HAS TAKEN PLACE, THE
RESI
RESURRECTION OF THE SITE IS
ESPECIALLY MOVING.
I'LL ASK YOU BOTH THE SAME
QUESTION, YOU'RE FILM MAKERS,
COME TO THINGS IN DIFFERENT
DIRECTIONS, WHAT IS IT THAT DREW
YOU TO THIS PARTICULAR STORY OF
THE TREES?
>> YEAH, WELL, I'M A FILM MAKER,
I'M A NEW YORKER AND LIKE MANY
GREAT THINGS IN NEW YORK, IT ALL
STARTED ON THE SUBWAY FOR ME.
I RAN INTO A FRIEND OF A FRIEND
WHO WAS A LANDSCAPE ARCHITECT
AND HE WAS WORKING ON THE
PROJECT AND TOLD ME THE STORY OF
THE TREES, AND I DIDN'T KNOW
ANYTHING ABOUT IT, AND YOU KNOW,
HE SAID THAT THE TREES WERE ALL
FOUND IN A 500-MILE RADIUS OF
NEW YORK CITY IN THE AREAS WHERE
THE ATTACK HAPPENED, SO AROUND
PENNSYLVANIA, AROUND MARYLAND,
VIRGINIA, D.C., AND SO TO ME, IT
WAS IMMEDIATELY THIS SORT OF
SYMBOLIC AND METAPHORICAL
SIGNIFICANCE TO THE TREES THAT I
JUST FOUND REALLY INTERESTING
AND DIDN'T KNOW ABOUT IT, AND SO
I WENT DOWN TO THE TREE FARM,
WHERE THEY WERE GROWING THE
TREES IN NEW JERSEY AND JUST
STARTED FILMING AND SOME AMAZING
PEOPLE WORKING ON THE PROJECT
AND IT JUST REALLY DREW ME IN.
I WAS ALSO IN NEW YORK ON 9/11,
SO A FEW BLOCKS AWAY UP IN
CHELSEA WORKING AND SO, YOU
KNOW, I'D ALWAYS WANTED TO DO A
PROJECT ABOUT 9/11, THIS IS TO
ME A STORY THAT I HADN'T HEARD
BEFORE AND THOUGHT WOULD BE A
GOOD ONE TO TELL.
>> HOUW ABOUT YOU, WHAT DREW YO
TO IT?
>> I THINK IT'S RARE TO
CHRONICLE HISTORY IN THE MAKING
ON A FILM, AND IT'S WHAT SCOTT
DID, THAT HE SET OUT PROBABLY
NOT THAT HE WAS GOING TO TAKE
FIVE YEARS TO CHRONICLE THAT
AREA, BUT I THINK IT'S LIKE THAT
AS HUMAN BEINGS, IT'S WHY WE
WERE ALL DROAWN TO THAT MOVIE
BOYHOOD A COUPLE OF YEARS AGO.
IT CHRONICLED A LIFE OVER TIME,
AND I THINK THIS FILM HAS
SIGNIFICANCE EVEN GOING FORWARD.
IT WILL MARK THAT AREA OF THE
CITY HISTORICALLY, AND FIVE
YEARS FROM NOW, TEN YEARS FROM
NOW, SCOTT WANTS TO REVISIT PART
OF HIS FILM, THE TREES WILL HAVE
GROWN AND THE CONCRETE AND THE
AREA AND THE NEW SUBWAY STATION
AND THE FREEDOM TOWER WILL ALL
LOOK THE SAME, BUT THE TREES
WILL TELL US THAT TIME HAS GONE
BY, AND THAT IT'S A METAPHOR FOR
WHAT WE CARE ABOUT AS HUMAN
BEINGS, IT'S A LIFE FORCE.
LOOK HOW FAR WE'VE COME SINCE
THEY WERE FIRST PLANTED THERE.
>> SCOTT, AS A DIRECTOR, YOU
HAVE A VISION HERE, AND THAT
VISION IS UPHOLDING.
THE TREES, I'VE SEEN THEM
DESCRIBED AS BOTH THE MAIN
CHARACTERS OF THIS FILM, AND AS
THE STORY TELLERS OF THIS FILM.
WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT THAT?
>> BEING DESCRIBED AS THE STORY
TELLERS.
>> I THINK THAT THAT'S EXACTLY
WHAT I TRIED TO DO, AND I MEAN,
THEY ARE VERY MUCH THE CENTRAL
CHARACTERS, AND YOU KNOW, I
ORIGINALLY INTENDED TO SORT OF
FOLLOW A COUPLE OF THE ACTUAL
TREES BECAUSE THEY'RE NUMBERED,
YOU KNOW, FROM THE VERY
BEGINNING WHERE THEY WERE FOUND
ALL THE WAY TO THE CITY, AND
THAT WAS PROVED TOO DIFFICULT TO
DO, BUT THEY'RE VERY MUCH, YOU
KNOW, THE CENTRAL CHARACTER AND
THEN I KIND OF CONSIDERED THE
HUMANS WHO WERE CARING FOR THEM,
DESIGNING THE MEMORIAL AND
PLANTING THE TREES AS SORT OF
THE SPORTING CHARACTERS WHO ARE,
YOU KNOW, MAKING IT ALL HAPPEN.
SO YEAH, THAT'S A NICE PLAN.
>> THE ARBORIST WHO'S AT THE
CENTER OF THE FILM, WHO CARES
FOR THE 400.
HE REFERS TO THEM AS HIS
CHILDREN, AND WHEN THEY ARE
BEING MOVED INTO THE PLAZA, THAT
HE VIEWS IT AS HIS KIDS GOING
AWAY TO COLLEGE.
AND THEN FOR HIM TO BRING LATER
ON IN THE FILM TOWARD THE END,
HIS OWN CHILDREN TO SEE HIS
MASTER WORK, I THINK IT'S LIKE
A, IF SOMEONE DOES A PAINTING
OR, I'M SURE ARCHITECTS,
BUILDING ARCHITECTS FEEL THAT
WAY, BUT IT'S SO EMOTIONAL TO
SEE HOW PEOPLE ARE MOVING BY
SOMETHING THAT IS, THAT WAS
DESTROYED AND COMING BACK, AND
WANT TO FOCUS ON THE SURVIVORS.
>> I WAS GOING TO ASK YOU ABOUT
THAT.
>> THE SURVIVOR TREE IS SPECIAL.
>> MIGHT NOT REMEMBER OR MIGHT
NOT KNOW, TELL US ABOUT THE
SURVIVOR TREE, ITS HISTORY AND
WHY IT'S SO SPECIAL.
>> I'LL LET SCOTT TELL BECAUSE
HE'S THE FATHER, BUT IT WAS THE
LAST LIVING THING TO COME OUT OF
GROUND ZERO, AND NOURISHED BACK
TO HEALTH, SCARS AND ALL, BUT
I'LL LET YOU.
>> FROM THE FILM MAKERS
PERSPECTIVE.
>> YEAH, FROM A FILM MAKERS
PERSPECTIVE, THE SURVIVOR'S TREE
IS AN AMAZING STORY, AND I KIND
OF GOT IN AT THE EXACT RIGHT
TIME, SO TO STEP BACK, THE
SURVIVOR TREE WAS THE LAST
LIVING THING TO COME OUT OF THE
SITE AND SOME OF THE WORKERS
DOWN AT GROUND ZERO A MONTH
AFTER THE ATTACKS, NOTICED A
STUMP WITH A FEW LEAVES ON IT.
IT MIGHT BE ALIVE.
IT LOOKED DEAD, ABOUT 8 FEET
TALL, PREVIOUSLIY 30 FEET TALL
AND THEY BROUGHT PEOPLE FROM THE
PARKS DEPARTMENT.
THIS TREE IS ALIVE, LET'S TRY
AND NURSE IT BACK TO HEALTH AND
SEE WHAT HAPPENS.
THEY TOOK IT OUT OF GROUND ZERO,
TOOK IT TO THE BRONX AND FOR
SEVEN YEARS IT WAS CARED FOR
LOVINGLY BY A COUPLE OF WORKERS
UP THERE, AND ONE OF WHOM
RITCHIE CABO, I FEATURE IN THE
FILM AND FOLLOW HIS STORY.
WHEN I FIRST FILMED THE SURVIVOR
TREE, IT WAS UP IN THE BRONX AND
IT WAS ABOUT FOUR MONTHS BEFORE
THEY MOVED IT BACK, SO I GOT TO
FILM IT THERE WHILE IT WAS SORT
OF STILL GROWING, GOT THE STORY
OF IT, AND THEN I WAS THERE TO
FOLLOW IT AS IT DROVE, THEY
DROVE IT DOWN THROUGH THE CITY
AND REPLANTED DOWN AT GROUND
ZERO.
IT'S ONE OF MY FAVORITE SCENES
FROM THE FILM.
IT'S SORT OF MY, I DON'T KNOW,
HOME TO NEW YORK, DRIVES THROUGH
THE BRONX AND MANHATTAN AND
DOWN.
>> IT'S A FABULOUS FILM.
SO MANY GREAT MESSAGES COMING
OUT OF THIS.
CONGRATULATIONS TO BOTH OF YOU
FOR DOING SOME MARVELOUS WORK.
COMPELLING AND PROVOCATIVE AND A
WONDERFUL STORY.
>> THANKS.

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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