9/11’s Human Face Preserved by Sewell

The Messenger, 9 September 2011
By Glenda Caudle

“Mom, is this the end of the world?”
She was a young woman the day the towers fell.
She craved reassurance; hungered to know her world was more stable than the pitiful, twisted, crumbling twins that mere heartbeats before had lorded it over a manmade kingdom reaching for the skies.
“I don’t know.”
What else could I say?
God help me.
God help all mothers, all fathers, all priests and kings, all peasants and poets.
God help us.
None of us knew.

Perhaps none of us knows still. A week ago — almost a decade later — I have waded into the Internet sea, looking for a specific and tarnishable temporary treasure and have, instead, claimed a pearl I was in no way searching for. And I have been in danger of drowning ever since — sometimes struggling, sometimes floating — in a seemingly bottomless sea of emotion.

In retrospect, I can tell you where I was, a few of whom I saw, fragments of what I heard, some of what I said, pieces of what I thought on Sept. 11, 2001. But there is no reason you should ask; no reason you should care. You have your own tale to tell.

Perhaps I need to hear yours.

If that is true, I shall. In time. In the time when the story that is washing over me just now in overwhelming waves has finally pitched me up onto a safe shore. Until then, though, dare to wade in and brave the sea of memory with me and submerge yourself in an “everyman” tale. Do it for the sake of every man and woman who lived the story but did not survive to tell it in their own words. Do it for the ones they left behind.

The way into the water is simple: Type in these words in the search engine of your computer: rufus sewell - 9/11.

Four labeled-by-number YouTube videos should emerge.

And begin at the beginning.

The initial experience will take you 25-30 minutes to get through all four. Don’t let anything interrupt. Don’t allow distractions of any kind. Give yourself up completely to this.

It is the most important video I have ever seen. The fact that it appears never to have been broadcast in America is incredible and inexplicable to me. The realization that there are no plans to rebroadcast it in England — where it was conceived and created — or to make it available in a DVD is mind-numbing.

Every man, woman and child in the world should see this brief dramatization, because we no longer really remember — and some of us never knew — the horror of that day. We experienced it in large measure, safe and secure and far away, through the impressions provided by the media. Until we simply couldn’t do even that any longer.

And so, 10 years later, we’ve moved on. We’ve absorbed other blows. We’ve fought other fights. We’ve won a few victories. We’ve remembered the date. We’ve memorialized the place. We’ve dried our tears.

Because we’ve forgotten the horror.

The “Out of the Blue” project was commissioned in England for the fifth anniversary of 9/11, in recognition that 67 British citizens lost their lives in the towers that day.

The epic poem by Simon Armitage, a well-known British poet, is brought to life in the midst of death by Rufus Sewell, another Brit. He is the only “actor” in the piece — all other faces used are actual video footage from that day.

The scene opens as Sewell arrives early for work in an office on the 90th floor of the first tower that will be hit. There is not the slightest hint of what is to come, but over the course of the four videos, Armitage and Sewell use their gifts to keep us fighting for emotional breath. The British trader they create — their “everyman” of the towers — is on the fast track to wealth and fame in a foreign country. Through him, we experience that ungodliest of all our shared days: the normality, the pride, the first jarring punch of reality, the confusion, the fear, the amazement, the incredulity, the horror, the good-bye, the dust.

As painful as it is — and if you emerge on safe shore without a track of salt tears on your cheeks or a dull aching in your heart, there is something barren deep within you — watch it repeatedly. There is so much to take in that it can’t possibly be done all at one attempt.

Putting the words on paper, making those same words live … I cannot imagine how it was done without a soul-shaking effort.

Nor can I imagine continuing to hide it away.

So please watch and listen and don’t forget.

Don’t ever forget.

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