2001-03 James Ronald Whitney
The following were written to
James Ronald Whitney
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wife and I had the privilege last night of watching your documentary
Telling Nicholas on HBO. Your documentary was so heart breaking
and powerful, while still being sensitive and tasteful. The
story of this poor young boy and his family brought me to tears
for several different reasons.
I worked in the World Trade Centers for Marsh and McLennan on
the 94th Floor. I was fortunate to be out of the office that
day, but most of my co-workers were not. I lost many friends
that day, that had husbands, wives and children. One of my closest
co-workers left behind his wife, 3 year old son, and 4 month
old baby. I was always haunted by how my friends widow would
now explain or rationalize the fact that their father were never
coming home again.
I'm also awaiting my first child in November. While watching
your documentary I thought to myself how either I or my wife
would ever explain something to our child if we were not to
come home. I applaud the efforts of Nicholas' father and family
in their attempts to explain the fact that his mother was missing
and passed away. You captured the raw emotion of each of the
family members so strongly that I felt as if I knew the family
and were suffering their loss.
September 11, 2001 was a tragedy in its truest form. Nothing
of this nature could have ever been imagined or comprehended.
I still have nightmares most nights thinking about the tragic
loss of life that day and the horrible devastation that was
caused. I want to thank you for showing how Nicholas exemplified
the resilience of children. I just wish we all could have the
courage and strength that little boy has. We all know that he
will suffer everyday for the loss of his mother, but in the
end, I feel strongly that he will be OK.
Thank you for having the courage and fortitude to document this
families tragedy. I think every person who watched the documentary
will be touched in a way like never before. Your depiction of
that weeks events were unfolding in thousands of homes across
I hope you receive the highest of accolades possible for your
documentary. You have performed a remarkable service for a totally
sat glued to my television last night, mesmerized by the elegance
in which you told the story of little Nicholas. The magnitude
of September 11 is intensely painful. I live about as far from
ground zero as one can get - Phoenix, AZ. Yet, the repercussions
of the event strike me as closely as they can. While my wife,
who is expecting our first child, and I sat on our living room
couch, in our new home, with the air conditioning keeping us
at our utmost comfort level, we both realized how much we take
for granted. We have it all. We don't have the worries and the
pain that Nicholas and his family have to now endure. We don't
have the grief of losing our family members in such a painfully
abrupt way. Yet, I still felt empty. I still felt like I was
sitting on those steps watching Nicholas' heart sink. Yet, I
felt renewed. I felt like the relationship between Nicholas
and Thanbir refilled my heart and made me want to go on in celebration
of humanity. So much was lost that day, and yet so much will
be gained. I can't thank you enough for bringing that story
into my life. As I sat still, consumed by grief and tears as
little Nicholas uttered his closing words, "Nicholas Lanza,
signing off..." I gained a powerful love for my family and those
I love around me - a love that comes from a place so deep, I
never knew it existed. So, thank you - it is all I can say.
seeing "Telling Nicholas" last night on HBO, I felt compelled
to write you. (I will preface that I've never written to anyone
about anything re TV, film, music, publication, etc., pls forgive
me if I'm redundant). I wanted to extend my tremendous gratitude
and appreciation for the most moving documentary I've ever seen.
As a NY'kr who lived through 9/11, I was fortunate not to lose
anyone close to me. (There was a brief half hour of not knowing
if my mother was in Windows of the World, (her client), but
that's it, she was ok and those I knew got out safely). In all
honesty, I feel that I never truly grasped the severity of how
many people where emotionally destroyed and changed forever
(for the worst). I couldn't feel loss. I wanted to hurt and
feel the utter catastrophe that the thousands of families felt
but I couldn't. The walks through downtown, the flyers of missing
people, vigils at the firehouses, volunteering at the Salvation
Army. I did it all, but still, I just couldn't "feel" it the
way I thought I should. It didn't sink in or I wouldn't let
it. I don't know. Time passed and like many who weren't directly
affected, I put it behind me as a terrible tragedy that didn't
really pertain to me and my life.
However, watching your documentary changed that. You brought
it all out of me. Everything I thought and felt about that day
became emotionally clear to me. I cried my eyes out during,
after and now. What an amazing job you did, bringing the reality
of those who really lost to those who could only sympathize
like myself. The contrasts btwn the two boys who lost parents
was spectacular. The turmoil in Nicholas's family, the blame,
the guilt, the desperation, the pain of the grandmother and
helpless sisters and finally the talk btwn dad and Nicholas.
I could never have fathomed all these situations without you.
Just thinking about it turned me inside me out.
I can't thank you enough for bringing clarity to what happened.
I'm most certain many other's feel the same.
an utterly fantastic film!!!! I was unsure whether I wanted
to see more about 9/11, but was mesmerized from the beginning
and could not leave the set. How effortlessly it seemed you
wove the stories of the two families together, interspersed
with vignettes of the other people who died. I found almost
every character fascinating. I am not a weeper, but the scene
at the end with the grandparents and the Bangladeshi boy made
me cry. A beautiful portrait of many people, including yourself;
your own character was subtle and non-intrusive (and at the
was completely taken by surprise by the unbelievable quality
and sophistication of your film last nite..I cannot believe
how you conveyed so many levels of our humanity...including,
intolerance, love, ignorance, sadness, loss, grief and denial.
I also respected the way that you dealt with the sensitive nature
of the father-child telling at the end.....
It was an amazing film and it made me want to learn more about
your company..and you as a very self aware and clearly actualized
and sensitive person.
Anyway, I hope as many people were as touched as I was, ironically
our intern Jules at one of my other posts last summer made the
documentary on the Fireman during September 11th which also
went to HBO.
You have touched a really import nerve and captured not only
the generous spirit of this critical period in time, but also
the painful light of so many larger issues.
know you are getting hundreds of e-mails this morning. I just
wanted to thank you for making "Telling Nicholas". I have NEVER
been so moved by a film in all my life. I felt the pain of the
family and especially with Nicholas. My dad died when I was
10, so I felt every bit of hurt that child was going through
when his Dad told him. Having Dr. Gilda their must have helped
tremendously. I wish she would have been there when my dad died.
Please keep making these kind of films instead of most of the
disposable nonsense that is out there now.
Name is Tracey and I live in southern New Jersey. It is 11:39pm
on Sunday and I just finished watching your HBO special. After
wiping away many tears I had to find a way to contact you.
I did not have any direct contact with anyone lost on september
11, 2001, but I feel the loss! I have taken the tragedy of
9/11 harder then I ever had imagined. Watching your film gave
me some peace. Watching a 7 year old boy comfort his father,
and grandparents was amazing and I would like for you to extend
my love and prayers to him and his family. Right now I feel
as if I am not making much sense, but its how I feel and I
am just typing! I have a degree in film and I have always
loved writing since I was a child! Sometimes the entertainment
industry can make you angry and ashamed but tonight I am proud
to have such a love and passion for story telling because
of someone like you! I thank you and god bless you
Much thanks and love
Ps-i would like to know if it is possible for my to get a copy of tonight's hbo special. Please let me know how i might do that. I have collected many things from this tragedy in hopes to one day show my children what 9/11 meant to me and the people around me. Your documentary would be a great addition to my collection.
job on the Nicholas piece. While I didn't lose anyone directly,
I felt like I could identify.
I just finished watching your¾documentary of 911 and little
Nicholas and felt the need to contact you and thank you. My
eyes were filled with tears throughout it and I couldn't help
but feel their pain. It is impossible to know how the loved
ones of the many victims felt but you were able to show the
world the a glimpse of the sadness and sorrow that these families
encountered.¾¾Your film was remarkable. I personally did not
know anyone involved in the events of 911 but my heart goes
out you for loss of your friends and to all the families and
friends of the many lost on that tragic day. Hopefully we will
never have to experience this pain again as a country.¾
Thank you again and my best to you in your¾future endeavors.
Your work is truly beautiful!
watched your documentary called "Telling Nicholas" last night.
I thought you did an outstanding job and I just wanted you to
know that. How is Michele's sister Cindy doing by the way??
I cried my eyes out when the father told Nicholas about his
mother. As a mom of 4 children (ages 3-9) I know how hard that
can be. I lost my father to a heart attach in January 2002¾and
my husband lost his father in April 2002 of a heart attack also.
Telling the children is difficult and trying to answer their
questions can be even harder. Thumbs up to you for bringing
Dr. Gilda along.
Again, great job!!!!!
just finished watching "Telling Nicholas". This was one of the
most compassionate and heart breaking shows I've ever watched.
I was in tears for most of the 90 minutes.
Thank you so much for giving us this story.
job on "Telling Nicholas"! I saw the trailer on HBO last Sunday
and figured this was some guy out to capitalize on 9/11. After
viewing it, I must say it was VERY well done. Really gave the
events of September 11th a human face. I can't say enough...
it was great.
hope you don't mind me contacting you this way, I did an internet
search to find you. I just finished watching Telling Nicholas
and just felt like I had to reach out, say something, I don't
really know exactly. My name is Shelly, I'm 33, and I live in
a small coastal town called Biloxi, it's in Mississippi. I have
to be honest, living in the south, especially the deep south,
is like living in another world, completely detached from what's
going on globally, and on Sept. 11, that's exactly how I felt.
Of course I watched everything unfold on t.v. as did the rest
of the world. I was shocked and confused, empathic to those
in New York, but after the day wore on and the news reports
began repeating themselves, life down here kept on rolling.
In the days that past, Mr. Guiliani was busy telling New York
to get back to business, life down here never stopped. It was
real, but not quite. Liken the situation to WW I, we all know
that it happened but it's not quite real to us. Of course there
was a show of patriotism with more American flags fl ying and
being the deep south, many more rebel (confederate) flags flying,
yet it still wasn't quite real. We remained somewhat untouched
by it all - I remained somewhat untouched by it all. That changed
when I saw your movie. I sat and watched with tears running
down my face, holding my sleeping 4 yr. old on my lap. Having
lost my mother at 17 and a child at 26, I felt the pain and
agony of Michelle's family and the Ahmed family. Suddenly I
knew. I understood the horror that took place in that mythical
city, so large, so full of everything, and so far away from
me. About two weeks ago, I decided that I was going to sell
the wedding rings from my dissolved marriage and take my son
to New York over Christmas. There we could ice skate in Rockerfeller
Center, go to museums to see dinosaur bones and Picassos. He
could see things there that he'd never see down here such as
snow. I want him to experience FAO Schwartz while it's still
magical. I also want to take him as close to ground zero as
we can get so that he and I can both witness the aftermath of
the event that changed the world and the lives of so many people.
Before your movie, I would have said I was going there out of
some sort of morbid fascination. Now, because of your movie,
I'm going to make it real, so that I nor my child never forgets.
And, when we get there, I will carry two white roses, to pay
my respect for the two people that died, Michelle Lanza, and
Mr. Ahmed, and for their families who let me be a voyeur to
their extreme pain. It was through their pain that Sept. 11
finally became real. Thank you.
just finished watching your special documentary about "9/11".
I thought it was awesome and you have captured the document
real well. I admired the fact that you included one of the
muslim's family in the movie. It showed that the blame of
the tragedy is not to the middle eastern people but to the
just want to wish you good luck for making more successful
films in near future and I am looking forward to see it.¾
just watched your film "Telling Nicholas" and I wanted to thank
you. As heartbreaking as the story was, it needed to be told.
It came at a time for me where I have gone on with my life as
usual I needed to be reminded of all of those who can not go
on and whose lives will never be the same. My life is so full,
so wonderful and I am just so happy. When I see something like
this it makes me appreciate what I have and I do not ever want
to forget what happened that day or forget the people who have
lost so much.
I have pms so I don't know if that is why your film affected
me so deeply, but I have been bawling for the past hour. That
little boy is so adorable and all I could think of was having
to tell any of my nieces or nephews that their mommy wasn't
coming home. Knowing that there were 10,000 more Nicholas's
out there is just too much to bear.
Thanks again, I'll look for more of your work in the future.
attended the showing of "Telling Nicholas" at the Tribeca Film
Festival this past Friday. I want to thank you (and, of course,
the families of Nicholas and Thanbir) for putting the most private
tragedy of thousands of families into words and pictures for
millions of people.¾Even though¾it was a difficult film¾for
me to watch,¾I¾called many of my friends and neighbors afterwards
to recommend they watch the film on HBO.
On September 11, I¾lived 1 block from the WTC on John St. &
Broadway.¾While I also had a¾Day 1, 2, and on through Day 10,¾they
were¾very different from the 10 days I experienced in your film.
While¾watching your film I remembered what I was doing on¾each
of those 10 days as I, and several of my friends,¾repeatedly
tried to¾gain access¾to our¾apartments. Paralleling the 10 days
that the families of Nicholas and Thanbir went through, to the
10 days I went through,¾puts many things in perspective. The
grief of the families,¾with loved ones missing or deceased,
was an abstract thought that I sub-consciously avoided during
those 10 days. I spent my 10 days busying myself with the goal
of getting back into my apartment to gather personal items.
Thank you for making a film that will enable millions of people
to remember this tragedy, as well as the innocent lives directly
affected by this tragedy.
I went to Lehigh University with Richard's office-mate, Scott.
I must say that I was surprised and again saddened when I saw
the flier of Scott in your film, even though I knew Scott's
fate by the time those 10 days were over.¾¾Scott is¾another¾good
soul and¾an innocent victim of this tragedy.
just got done watching "Telling Nicholas" after a day spent
across the street from what is now "Ground Zero" working for
the Tribecca Film Festival. My girlfriend and I live in the
West Village and as all New Yorkers we were very affected by
the events of September 11th. The reason I am writing you is
to say thank you for what you had the presence of mind to go
out and film. I have had a hard time dealing with my emotions
in relation to this event and for the first time since September
11th I was able to open up a bit and shed some tears. I am now
exhausted and feel like I am still holding back, but I feel
better. I am a freelance television producer who has been trying
to tell some sort of a story related to the disaster but I have
been struck dumb by the events and I find I do any other project
to avoid dealing with the footage I have shot. In time I am
sure I will be able to sit down and sift through it but for
now I will look towards people like you with respect for doing
their part to help us all heal.
Thanks - Luke
my gosh...I am still crying. Shawn called me last week after
the screening of "Telling Nicholas" and said it was so moving
and asked me to tape it for him. I then asked my sister to also
tape it, in case something went wrong. Well, needless to say,
when it ended , my sister called crying, my daughter came upstairs
crying , we were all crying together. Shawn's little brother
(12 yrs. old) came over and hugged me and told me he loved me.
Shawn said it really got to him also(which is hard for him to
admit, he likes to hide his feelings).
I just had to write to you and tell you how it touched our lives
and many others. Thank you for a job well done. We all needed
a good cry.
do not live in NYC, I live in St. Louis. I did not know anyone
who was killed in the twin towers. Most of the time I cannot
watch anything that discusses the disaster because I get incredibly
depressed. But, as a mother of three kids ages 3-13, and as
a mother who is dying, I felt the need to watch Telling Nicholas.
Ever since I was a child, I thought the saddest thing in the
world was for a child to lose their mother. It was my greatest
fear for so long. Watching Nicholas cry in his fathers arms
and yet be able to comfort his father at the same time, made
me realize that there is hope yet. My own death does not have
to cast a gray pall over my kids lives. I can do something now
to help them cope with it. I can prepare them and hopefully,
as Nicholas seemed to do, they will bounce back into the living
I thought the documentary was very well done and tasteful, and
as I was watching it I realized that Nicholas acted normal,
filled with grief but at the same time self centered. This to
me is a very good thing. I had in my head that my death would
somehow destroy my family, and I understand from Nicholas that
it does not have to be that way.
Thank You for showing us a truly unique look at how 9/11 affected
one little corner of NY.
documentary!!! Made me cry for the first time since 9/11. I'm
looking forward to your future work. I'd like to see something
about Nicholas when he is older and how the documentary and
the events of 9/11 shaped his life.
am so compelled to tell you that "Telling Nicholas" was beautiful.
It was the most touching and genuine documentary, movie whatever
you want to call it, it was amazing and heartfelt. I have a
satellite system and watched it twice tonight. As I watched
it and heard your voice I thought "wait a minute, I know that
voice" and as I just looked up the website I saw "Just Melvin,
Just Evil" and said "holy shit I knew I heard that voice before".¾
You should be so proud of your work and devotion. Just, Melvin
was so painful to watch and see what you and your family went
through but the way you took us through such an emotional roller
coaster was overwhelming at times but so real that it makes
all of those stupid "reality shows" look like the freakin' Brady
Bunch. Forgive me for going on, but I needed to thank you for
sharing your life and the life of these precious two boys and
their families in such tasteful, heart stopping and beautiful
I am positive that thousands of people will email you this morning
telling you how wonderful "Telling Nicholas" was.
Best of blessings and health and good times to you....
Rosie from Jersey
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See the Web sites for the director's other films:
Games People Play: New York
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