Dormant strength and courage
World Trade Center , the Paramount motion picture directed by Oliver Stone and starring Nicolas Cage, Michael Peña, Maria Bello, Maggie Gyllenhaal, and Michael Shannon helps us remember, not "a day that will live in infamy," but the strength and courage that lies dormant in every human heart, ready to spring into action when summoned.
Narrowing the focus
Unlike several other 9/11 projects, this film does not document the timeline of events from multiple perspectives, choosing instead to follow two men drawn to the scene of the disaster by their sense of duty as Port Authority police officers.
Sergeant John McLoughlin leads his unit of volunteers through the lower concourse just as the first tower starts coming down. A split-second assessment of what is happening prompts him to thrust his team into a side hallway next to an elevator, just as the entire building collapses around them. The rest of the film focuses on the claustrophobic space surrounding the trapped men, their waiting families clinging to fading hopes, and the heroic workers trying to rescue them.
Finding their place
The common thread through the movie is how the human beings reacting to 9/11 coalesced into teams. The police assembled a team to assist in the building evacuation. The firemen team up to effect rescues. The families came together to offer encouragement and support. The military personnel, EMTs, and others formed up to search for survivors. Everyone cooperated, finding his or her place in the common effort. And the results can be awesome.
At creation, God said, "It is not good for the man to be alone" (Genesis 2:18). We usually apply this in its original context as the raison d'etre for marriage (its reason for existence). But the events of 9/11 demonstrate the value of developing close relationships – those characterized by mutual regard, friendship, loyalty, and trust.
A team is different from a group in that it has a common purpose or mission. A team is different from a committee by being oriented toward action rather than endless discussions. A team can accomplish so much more than the sum efforts of detached individuals. The synergy they experience stems from their communication – they urge, reorient, motivate, and console one another. They share the burden of the moment, anticipating when they will emerge back into the open air in triumph.
Of course, it does not always turn out with such a positive exit. Only 20 people were rescued from the Twin Towers rubble. Hundreds of other families and their friends formed teams to support their loved ones as they staggered slowly through the grieving process. But even those teams made a huge contribution to diminish the agonizing pain and fill the sudden void – not fill weaknesses, but at least share.
After a number of films that earned Oliver Stone a "bad-boy" reputation, he has created a memorial to the 9/11 catastrophe that ennobles its audience, not by preaching platitudes to them, but by drawing them into a vicarious experience that prompts them to ask themselves: How would I react to this? Would I be willing to volunteer? Could I hold out when it looks idle? Could I find a way to serve that would make a significant contribution? Is my marriage precious to me? Would my kids miss me if I died today? What could I have done differently this morning if it were the last time I would ever see them?
World Trade Center is a film you should see, not just for the sake of the 2,563 victims, but to give you a new perspective on the life you choose every day and on the people surrounding you in that life – your team.