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
    Day 2
13 14
    Day 4
    Day 5
Days 6-9
  Day 10
21 22
23/30 24 25 26 27 28 29

DAY 3:
After sneaking past the armed guards, I managed to check on the cats, get some more stock, and a couple more changes of clothes before heading to Tottenville. I knew it would take hours to get across a bridge or through a tunnel, because they were either closed, or cluttered with officials doing random searches, backing up traffic for miles. After several hours, we finally made it onto the Triboro Bridge, and for the first time from a distance, I saw the new Manhattan skyline. It was a very sad moment. But something even sadder was still ahead--a wonderful family, devastated, and still waiting for the return of Michele, a daughter, a sister, and a mother to a 7-year-old little boy. Prior to this drive, I had never even stepped foot on Staten Island, but I was about to become intimately involved in one family's journey that would last for 7 more days.
When we got to the street where the family lived, after first passing Michele and Nicholas' big blue house, we continued up the block past a few more houses.

There he was. Al, Nicholas' grandfather was standing outside his home where the rest of Michele's family lived. He was waiting for his daughter to come home, as Nicholas played on the steps of the home he shared with his mother. Nicholas had no idea why his mom was really missing. I introduced myself to Al, and he invited me into his home, where the rest of the family was engaged in conversation with Pastor Gibney. Robert had changed his mind. Although there was still no news about Michele, even with the support of the pastor, Robert could not bring himself to tell Nicholas that his mother may not be coming home.

I spoke with the family on camera for several hours, and since our conversation is included in the film, I will not even attempt to paraphrase what was expressed that evening. However, after that conversation, for the first time, Michele's mom and dad went upstairs to Cindy's bedroom and heard the message Michele left from the 96th floor of Tower Two on her younger sister's answering machine only moments after the plane crashed directly into her building. It was clear to me that these would most likely be the last words from Michele that her family would ever hear. I asked them to call me if they heard any news, and, emotionally drained, we left.

On the way home, after stopping at the local Burger King to break down the equipment, Neil (my cameraman) told me that he could no longer continue on this journey. He was so affected by what had transpired over the past 3 days--the collapse of the World Trade Center, the people jumping to their deaths, the running from the debris cloud, the devastation of Michele's family, and her seemingly last words on that answering machine--that he asked me to find another cameraman, so he could go home and be with his own family. After getting searched, questioned and rerouted numerous times, it was almost morning by the time we navigated our way back into Manhattan.
Enormous plumes of smoke were escaping from the area now known as Ground Zero. The "city that never sleeps" was still on fire.

   © 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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