“Witnesses to 9/11,” September 11, 10:40 p.m. (History Channel)
“Milhouse, how could you let this happen?”
“I saw the whole thing. First it started falling over, then it fell over.”
/only scene from “Witnesses to 9/11”
“Voices from Inside the Towers,” September 10, 9 p.m. (History Channel)
I can’t wait until 2040, when the History Channel celebrates the hundred-year anniversary of the opening of Auschwitz with never-before heard audio of the Jews screaming for mercy in the camp showers. And coming in 2054: actual footage from the Rwandan Genocide, to mark 60 years of 800,000 innocent people being murdered.
While writing this article, I stumbled across a YouTube clip of a 9-1-1 call from a man trapped in one of the World Trade Center buildings, a man desperately trying to get help from the authorities, even though he ultimately knew there was nothing that could be done. The call ends with the man screaming, “Oh God,” then nothing. It’s horrifying to listen to, and I felt like a monster for having done so for four minutes. “Voices from Inside the Towers” will extended that awful feeling for an hour.
For the most part, these specials confuse, anger, and sadden me because the events of 9/11 aren’t something we need to be reminded about, even on its 10th anniversary — we’ll never forget what happened. The images of the burning buildings are still all around us, on t-shirts, wine bottles, coloring books, and “Simpsons” stills. (I work in a 50-floor building in Midtown Manhattan, so it’s impossible not to think “what if?” from time to time.) If a network wants to air a knowledgeable special with interviews from those in the know, like the Smithsonian Channel’s 9/11: Day That Changed the World, there’s nothing wrong with that. But dedicating airtime to dogs and Denis Leary, and all the wonderful things they did in the post-9/11 world, is just exploitative, because networks know that people will uneasily watch for the simple reason that the date “September 11″ has a resonating, darkly magnetic value to Americans.
But who cares about that? I want to know how Paul McCartney got The Melissa Etheridge to sing “Come to My Window.”