A national commemoration like no other

A sampling of specials looking back at disaster

September 01, 2002|By David Zurawik | By David Zurawik,Sun Television Critic

Here is a selected guide to some of the Sept. 11-related specials and films:

* Faith and Doubt at Ground Zero (PBS). Airs Tuesday night at 9 on MPT (Channels 22 and 67):

Casting the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in a Holocaust-like model of monstrous evil, this thoughtful and well-crafted film from Frontline asks tough questions about God. True believers beware: You might not like some of the heartfelt statements sounded here. The widow of a dead fireman says of God, "I can't bring myself to speak of Him anymore because I feel so abandoned." A security guard who lost more than 30 friends in the attacks says, "It was too barbaric, the way the lives were taken. So, I look at Him now as a barbarian."

* In Search of America (ABC). Airs Tuesday night at 10 on WMAR (Channel 2):

Featuring anchorman Peter Jennings and produced by the same team that did The Century, ABC News stresses that this six-part, prime-time series was started before Sept. 11, 2001. But the network is clearly positioning it at the heart of a national re-examination of values post-9 / 11, with promotional materials saying, "What about America is worth dying for? What does it mean to be an American today? Those questions have taken on a new significance in the past 12 months." They certainly have, and this series is part of an ABC package that makes the network one of the voices with the most to say.

* Caught in the Crossfire: Arab Americans in Wartime (PBS). Airs Wednesday night at 10 on MPT (Channels 22 and 67):

It's a flawed and uneven film, but it's also essential viewing for the minority viewpoint it articulates and for one of the profiles it includes of an Arab-American NYPD officer. (For a fuller discussion, see accompanying story.)

* The Survivors and The Survivors II (ABC). Airs Thursday and Friday on Nightline at 11:35 on WMAR (Channel 2):

The Survivors, which first aired Feb. 15, is a deeply moving portrait of two remarkable Pentagon workers, Brian Birdwell and Louise Kurtz (and their spouses), as they struggle to recover from horrific burns incurred Sept. 11 in the attack on the Pentagon. ABC will follow its replay on Thursday with the debut Friday of Survivors II, which continues the heroic journeys. With so much of the focus on the World Trade Center, producers Paul and Holly Fine deserve our thanks for so sensitively telling these sagas of suffering, courage, loss and love.

* From the Ashes -- 10 Artists (Cinemax). Airs 8 a.m. Sept. 11:

One of five non-fiction films that Cinemax is airing under the banner "Visions from Ground Zero," From the Ashes tells the stories of how artists living in the shadow of the World Trade Center responded to the attacks and changes in their lives. Seen through various artists' eyes, the film has moments of insight not found anywhere else, as when one painter talks about running her hands through the white ash that blanketed the street outside her apartment and realizing it included "ashes of people" from the World Trade Center. Juxtaposed with that stark realization, a hair stylist in the neighborhood thinks "changing hair color" is the way to respond for some residents. "It's a new beginning," he says, and he snips away.

* Aftermath: The Road to Resilience (Discovery Health Channel. Airs 9 p.m. Sept. 11:

And here's one to miss. Done in partnership with the American Psychological Association (APA), there is way too much showcasing of one singular strand of TV-pop-psyche talk from an APA official. Discovery needs to be more careful about editorial control of its product and including a more varied range of expertise.

* World Trade Center: Triumph and Tragedy (Travel Channel). Airs at 10 p.m. Sept. 11:

Here's one of the most pleasant surprises, an hour-long special that looks at the history of the World Trade Center. It made me see the World Trade Center in ways I never had, despite the hundreds of hours of programs related to the towers that I've screened. Paul Goldberger, architecture critic for The New Yorker, and Guy Tazzoli, who managed the WTC for almost 40 years, bring the buildings to life much the way Shelby Foote did the Civil War for Ken Burns.

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