On Hope and an Interview
It was two years later, but to the women it still felt like yesterday. It was the fall of 2003. I was in 9th grade, shooting a once-in-a-lifetime interview with five women who lost a loved one on 9/11. They were all from my town, and had agreed to sit down together and talk about their grief and sorrow. But out of the interview came a picture of women full of strength and dignity.
There was no easy way to organize it. Being younger, I still lacked the tact one might have for putting together such an occasion. But the women were polite, understanding and helpful. Looking back, it was clear they had become numb to the organizational communication that comes with press. They managed it like seasoned veterans, something they never thought they would have to be. Thrust into a position they did not expect, they handled it gracefully and had accepted their role in America as living symbols of that horrible day.
Each had their own story; one the husband of a pilot whose plane crashed into the south tower, another the mother of a man who worked on the 89th floor of the north. Our community lost 18 that day, all in New York save for two on flight 93. These women represented their collective thoughts and I did my best to interview them in a way that was simple and would create less emotional strain.
We met with them all at once, in the sunroom of one of their homes. They had some snacks on the table and some refreshments in hand. There was a couch and two chairs, arranged in a half circle to allow them to look at each other but to also allow the two cameras we had to get decent angles. It was less of an interview and more of a conversation, to be honest. I wanted to see where they would take their answers and allow them to bounce off each other and interact. I would introduce a topic, flight safety for example, and allow them all to respond or bounce it around as they pleased.
What resulted was edited down to a ten minute piece. It was submitted for a high school journalism competition but did not win. That wasn’t the point, though. Hearing their stories, their reactions to the current political climate (which, in the fall of 2003, was quite interesting) and their hope for the future restored a bit of my faith and opened my eyes to what time, reflection and healing can do.
The tape is long lost now. I was a teenager who didn’t take care of his stuff, natch. But I’ll never forget their earnest belief that the world is a good place. We should all carry that belief, now more than ever.