Last holidays I watched Flight 93 on Showtime. These holidays I caught United 93. Both movies rank among the few that have ever brought me to tears. I don’t cry easily in films – my friend cried during No Reservations while I laughed (mind you, she’s the only person I know that cried during that movie. All the rest of my friends laughed – it was so clichéd, predictable and corny it was hysterical.) A more convincing standard would be that I never cried during Titanic.
I didn’t cry the Day the Towers fell, but I remember the Day well. The utter shock of it makes us able to recall where we were or what we were doing when we caught that image of the Towers on fire.
…I woke up later than usual, around 7.30, and saw the story of the burning towers on the news as I had my breakfast. At school, other students were looking up footage on CNN and the web before class started…
Both Flight and United 93 moved me because I was able to better understand the ignorance, fear, and courage of those who suffered on that fateful flight, and the plight of those who died that day as a consequence of a political war in which they played no part but pawns.
The difference between the two films is that Flight 93 pieced together the story of how the passengers overcame the terrorists by following individual’s contact to loved ones on the ground, and played on the emotions – the terrible, unfathomable sorrow – of saying goodbye. United 93, however, focused on the shared story of the terror and bravery of those in the air and the absolute confusion and chaos that reigned at ground control – at the FAA, the military, and airline centres from New York to Boston.
United 93 captured the disorder and uncertainty surrounding those on ground control trying to follow the suspected hijackings and disappearing planes; their sheer inability to respond and the inadequacy of their actions; but most of all, the brutality of the terrorists and the valour of the passengers who would not be collectively scared into submission but would fight to deter the course of violence and intimidation at the cost of their lives.
What moved me most – and of the two, United 93 affected me the most – were two things. One was ignorance of the people who would meet their doom on that flight – they planned for their futures, but I knew that they would not make it – they would not live to see their daughters or wives or fathers or sons as they so rightly expected to. The second was victims ringing families and lovers and saying “I love you,” with all those devastating connotations – goodbye, I’m sorry, I’ll never see you again. It broke my heart to watch.
In Showtime Extras, as the actors explained [United 93] and their experience of it, one summarised it quite simply as trying “to tell the human story of what happened that day.”
Just a girl