Yesterday, the Stiftung joined some people and attended “United 93”. The movie is respectful and well done as reported widely. Simplicity's poetry works well here. The day's chronology alone compels sufficient dramatic tension. Bittersweet grief watching normal, everyday Americans confronting the ultimate challenge of spirit, courage and humanity at times is nearly and genuinely overwhelming.
Returning to 9/11 is a unique experience for each of us. The Stiftung remembers the day as clearly as you do. Before the movie began, in the audience the tension was palpable. Each of us was likely lost in a wave of memories, many of them unexamined for some time.
During the movie and for hours afterwards, the Stiftung's reaction was personal and introspective. The rest of the audience seemed to react the same way. Perhaps because the 40 strangers on that plane took a stand for themselves and those they saved here in D.C. for the most simple of reasons: for life. Today's politics, ideology, “GWOT” and all the cynicism of what has happened to America since 9/11 seemed worlds away. Blessedly.
We highly recommend this movie.
(Above is the new duet from Mark Knopfler and Emmylou Harris, “If This Is Goodbye”, a song written expressly by Knopfler about how some that very day had to say the final goodbye . . . )
All the more reason to be jarred then to come home and watch a recording of last night's “24”. There, Jack Bauer stowed aboard an airplane, attacked the federal marshal and stole his gun. Bauer then stormed the passenger section, pointing the gun at terrified passengers promising he would shoot them. All the more reason to be stunned when Bauer grabs a stewardess and hauls her terrified down an aisle. In the name of national security and the “good guys”.
An interesting bookend to the earlier experience. Here was mass American entertainment clearly comfortable depicting and inverting the United 93 scenario into a transgressive Bauer moment. At first the thought arose immediately and unbidden, 'is this somehow right?' The emotions from United 93 were still raw and present.
And then, the Stiftung smiled and took solace. Events on board Flight 93 deserve a sacred place in our memory. Indeed, one can not see that movie and not confront that small, quiet internal question — “would I have the courage and dignity to rise to the challenge as they did?” We would all like to think so.
Yet the passengers took action for life. Their refusal to go meekly — even as they knew there was little chance for themselves — was a message about valuing and treasuring life. “24” and the dramatic fiction of Jack Bauer seizing an airplane to uncover bad guys is part of that tapestry. If we can honor and remember what transpired on that airplane without burdening it and ourselves with overwrought emotional or even worse, political baggage, all the better.
We took away from last night's juxtaposition this simple lesson. Honor events on United 93. And enjoy and value the life they thought so important to fight for.