An audience nearly filled the Staller Center’s 1,100-seat theater at Stony Brook University yesterday for a free screening of 9/11: An American Requiem, a film about first responders to the World Trade Center attacks.
“They took the human element as the focal point,” said Hal Kramer of Port Jefferson Station, who wore a white polo shirt with an American flag embroidered on one shoulder. “I couldn’t be prouder of anyone who had anything to do with the production of this film to the responders themselves,” he said.
Coram resident Steve Rodman said he liked the interview-style presentation of the participants’ stories.
“What an author can write cannot come close to hearing it from their mouths,” he said. He noted one account from the film of a responder running into a restaurant’s restroom to wash the dust off his face and being told by an alarmed woman who worked there that he was in the women’s room.
“These little tidbits add reality and real life,” said Rodman, who paused at times as his voice broke. He said he liked the diversity of the film’s interviews, which included men and women of various ethnicities who were police officers, firefighters, and EMT’s, as well as civilians who volunteered for the rescue work in the attack’s immediate aftermath.
“Compassion knows no race, religion, or cultural background,” he said.
The film’s executive producer, Dr. Benjamin Luft, is also head of the Stony Brook University Medical Center’s World Trade Center Medical Monitoring and Treatment Program (WTCMMTP). Most of the responders interviewed in the film are patients of the clinic, which sees about 6,000 patients from Long Island still physically and emotionally affected by their involvement in the events of that day and the rescue efforts, Luft said.
One audience member, who asked to remain anonymous “for personal reasons,” offered some criticism of the film’s production.
“I thought it was well-done, except I thought it did not instill the passion that a film should,” he said, adding that the sound quality was poor.
NYPD detective Rafael Orozco was one of the film’s interviewees present at the screening. His on-screen story about taking a young girl to the edge of the scene of devastation that was the World Trade Center site so that she would remember what happened there prompted applause from the audience and personal thanks from Kramer during the question-and-answer session following the screening.
“They got what I did – what I said and what I did with that little girl, who was from Tennessee, visiting New York with her family,” Orozco said.
He was positive about the way the film’s producers put the interviews together.
“Dr. Luft avoided the mistake of over-editorializing,” he said. “Everyone was telling the same story – one mind. It went from person to person but it was as if it was the same story. It was their voice, their story.”