`Memoriam' Hits Close to Home

Critic's Choice

Television

May 26, 2002|By David Zurawik

The relationship between television and national memory almost always makes for fascinating holiday viewing. But rarely is the history remembered on screen as heartbreakingly close to home for those in the audience as "In Memoriam: New York City, 9/11/01" (HBO, 9 p.m.) - a record of that horrible day as seen through the eyes of former Mayor Rudolph Giuliani and more than 100 of the citizens and workers of that city who bore witness.

A body of great film and television documentary is already growing up around the terrorist attacks and our responses in the minutes, hours and days immediately after. It includes the CBS film, 9/11, by the Gaudet brothers, and the Discovery Channel's New York Firefighters: The Brotherhood of September 11th. Of anything we've seen so far, In Memoriam reaches farthest and captures the best sense of the American spirit today.

The music is as eloquent as the images in this film. It's all American composers - Aaron Copland, Samuel Barber, Charles Ives and others - selected and performed by the New York Philharmonic. Listen to the music and look closely at the images of the rescue workers that are highlighted, and you can't help but appreciate how much the cowboy (as seen in the play, Oklahoma!) and the frontier still inform our national self-image.

We now have a new national life-altering image to remember on this weekend, and HBO does it proud at 9 tonight.

For a more traditional Memorial Day television exercise, there's NBC's "Price for Peace," from Steven Spielberg and historian Stephen E. Ambrose. It remembers the World War II veterans who fought in the Pacific. Tom Brokaw is host for the two-hour film that airs tomorrow on WBAL (Channel 11) at 8 p.m.

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