Surviving 9/11

Survivors, first responders and family members of people who died share their deeply personal stories from Sept. 11.

Available on CBC Gem

Surviving 9/11

The Passionate Eye

9/11 is arguably one of the most defining events of the postwar era.

Broadcast live around the world, it was a moment in history that almost everyone over a certain age remembers. Where were you on 9/11?

But what was it like to live through? And what is it like to try and move on from a day that others want to remember?

20 years later, Surviving 9/11 brings together ordinary people who were caught in the attacks — events that they weren’t able to fully comprehend at the time and are still working through.

Surviving 9/11 is a deeply personal film that intertwines two narratives: the two-hour period when attackers hijacked four planes, crashing two of them into the Twin Towers and one into the Pentagon, and the story of the 20 years since.

Blending powerful testimony from American and British interviewees with personal and public archives, the story of the day unfolds almost in real time. Detailed storytelling about moments on the day is interspersed with contemporary scenes that explore how people’s lives are still affected by the events of 9/11.

26-year-old Vanessa, from Scotland, was taking part in an artists’ residency on the 91st floor of the World Trade Center on Sept. 11. She had been in the North Tower since 6 a.m., working on a sunrise painting of New York. 20 years on, Vanessa is still working on a reproduction of the painting she lost, still haunted by how close she came to not surviving.

Nancy Suhr’s husband Danny was a New York City firefighter. She describes how she still grieves his death, year afterwards.

Malcolm lost his son Geoff on 9/11. Every year, he camps alone on a mountain in Wales where he was when he first heard the news about the attacks. One of Malcolm’s surviving sons, Matt, obsessively searches for answers about his brother’s final moments. Heather was a newly qualified fighter pilot who took to the skies that day — prepared to ram the tail of United Airlines Flight 93, the hijacked plane that was headed for Washington, D.C. Bill was a Staten Island firefighter who survived both towers collapsing around him.

The attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, happened in America, but they changed the world.

Surviving 9/11 is an intimate account of a day that the world will never forget.