Production Notes
by James Ronald Whitney, filmmaker
September 2001
10 Days Of Filming
2 3 4 5 6 7 1/8
9 10 11
    Day 1
12 13
    Day 3
    Day 4
    Day 5
Days 6-9
  Day 10
21 22
23/30 24 25 26 27 28 29

DAY 2:
When I woke up, I waited before opening my eyes. I knew that I would either see the skylight in my bedroom--if the attack had only been a nightmare--or the peeling paint on my friend's ceiling--if the attack had been a reality. I saw the peeling paint. It was early, and after loading up on film, I bought a painter's mask and a fake NYC Policeman's shirt in Chelsea (where else?), and headed back to Ground Zero where I met Dan, a cop who made me a deal I couldn't refuse. The police force would not let anyone into the area, so Dan said he would give me unrestricted access to the site if he could get a set of my prints.
I spent hours shooting rolls of film and observing the devastation first hand. The steps leading to my company's headquarters had been completely destroyed, and the windows were all blown out. Richard Reichgut, my executive producer, has an office located on the 43rd floor of the same building in the World Financial Center.

The stock market was closed, there was no electricity, phone or water in lower Manhattan, I was still evacuated, my cell phone wasn't getting a signal, and suddenly, all I wanted to do was check on some of my friends who I thought might have been in the Twin Towers when they collapsed. So after shooting about a dozen rolls of film, I headed north to St. Vincent's Hospital, where thousands of the fliers of missing loved ones wallpapered everything from the hospital to the bus stop. Aside from making certain that my friends and colleagues were okay, my primary concern was for the children whose parents were killed in the attack. I began writing down the phone numbers of fliers that showed missing parents with their children, so I could later contact some of the families and put them in touch with hotlines that had been set up like

I'm affiliated with a number of child advocacy groups, including Love Our Children USA, The Children's Advocacy Center of New York, Save Our Children and Childhelp USA, the largest of these organizations in the United States. In fact, my last two movies have been about issues involving children.

Later that day, I made my very first call to the family of a little boy who was missing his mother, Michele Lanza.

Michele, an outgoing 36-year-old blonde professional, had been separated from her husband, Robert, who was living in Virginia. Since the separation, Michele had been living in Tottenville on the top floor of a big blue house that she shares with her 7-year-old son, Nicholas.

Tottenville is 20 miles from Manhattan, and it is both the last town on Staten Island and the last town in New York. Michele has a younger sister named Cindy, and an older sister named Susan, both of whom live with their parents, Ethel and Al, just a few houses up the block from Michele and Nicholas' home. Susan answered the phone. Her tone was serious, and I could tell from her "Hello" that she had received scores of calls since the attack, and that she was hoping for some news. I introduced myself, and asked if the family had heard anything about Michele. Susan said that she was still missing, and that the family was waiting for her to walk through the door any minute.

Susan is single, she has a Ph.D. in naturology and a degree in spirituality, and she lives in the basement of her parent's home. Cindy lives on the second floor with Dominick and their two children, 9-year-old Nicolette, and 3-year-old Jackie. Until the separation a year ago, Michele and Nicholas had been living with Robert down in Virginia. The day of the attack, Robert drove to Staten Island to be with Nicholas. A very religious man of the Apostolic faith, Robert had been praying for his wife's safe return home. He too, was convinced that Michele was only missing, so he decided not to tell his son about the attack. He simply told Nicholas that his mother was having some problems with transportation.

Susan told me on the phone that Robert had called his pastor, who was planning to come to the house and talk to Nicholas on Day 3 if Michele had not yet returned home. I told Susan that I had shot the collapse of the towers, and that I was still filming anything to do with the attack. I asked her if I could come to the house on Day 3, and meet the family, and possibly talk to them on camera about what they were going through emotionally. I was most interested in talking to Robert about the unimaginable burden with which he was faced. Even with the pastor's support, if Michele did not return home, as the surviving parent, Robert was going to have to tell Nicholas that his mother is either missing, or that his mother is dead.
   © 2001-03 James Ronald Whitney
See the Web sites for the director's other films: Just, Melvin, and Games People Play
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