Days Of Filming
Michele's mom, asked me to drop off her daughter's
brush at the Armory so that the strands of hair
could be used for DNA sampling. Ethel thought that
if Michele were in shock, or suffering from temporary
amnesia, or listed as an unidentifiable Jane Doe
at one of the hospitals, the sample might help to
identify her. The authorities simply wanted DNA
samples from the survivors so that they could identify
the unrecognizable dead bodies and the numerous
body parts they were continuing to find in their
(my executive producer) met me at the Armory to deliver
the hairbrush and to pick up two DNA saliva kit samples--one
for Nicholas and one for Michele's mom. Suddenly, from
the sea of people, I heard, "Ron, over here." It was
a guy named Aaron who had assisted my sound engineer
on some foley work for my first movie. I didn't really
know him, and I barely recognized him, but he had left
me a couple of messages over the past few weeks asking
if I needed an intern or a production assistant to work
on one of my projects. "I'm happy just making coffee
and running errands," he said, seemingly desperate on
his messages. "Give me a call if you can use some help.
Anything!" I never returned his calls. Even now, I didn't
need an intern or a coffee boy. I did, however, need
a cameraman--today was Neil's last day of shooting.
Aaron had made his way through the crowd to Richard
and me. "Did you get my messages? I never heard back
from you," he said. I had no time for small talk. "Can
you shoot?" I asked. "Well, I've done a little bit of
camera work, like..." I quickly interrupted his example
with, "You're hired." I didn't care if he had only shot
stills at his second cousin's bar mitzvah. I was on
a street filled with sad people, I was living in a dive
hotel room, still evacuated from my home with no electricity,
no water, and no phone service, and in just a couple
of hours Neil was heading off to see his family, and
I'd have no cameraman. Aaron was thrilled with the opportunity
to shoot, and got me a coffee--extra light with sugar.
I asked Neil to give him a quick tutorial on how to
use the camera, as I began looking at the thousands
of fliers in a very different way for the very first
time. I was no longer simply taking down the names and
numbers of missing parents with their children.
We stood in a long line waiting to use a pay phone until
it was finally our turn to call. Scott's family, devastated
but happy to hear a concerned voice, said they had heard
nothing since the attack. They said Scott is still among
the missing. We continued down the wall of missing faces,
and once again, a tear rushed down Richard's cheek.
time, Richard and I were looking at each of the
faces hoping that we wouldn't recognize anybody.
We weren't so lucky. The first person we recognized
was Scott--Richard's office mate. A tear immediately
streamed down Richard's face, and, like Michele's
family, he said, "Maybe he was injured and got out."
He continued, "He might be home now, and the family
just hasn't taken down the flier. Let's give them
Clara's best friend is Gabriella Waisman, Richard's secretary.
Gabby and Clara worked in the corporate office, so they
always jumped at the opportunity to get out at events
like the Water's Conference. They were also best friends
who were inseparable, so Richard wanted to call and make
certain Gabby was okay. She used to make all my press
kits, and I hadn't seen her since the premiere of our
last movie. If she were overburdened with office work
and unable to leave the office, she would be okay.
was Clara--Richard's receptionist. Clara is an identical
twin with a heart of gold, and Richard adored her.
This time, he decided not to make a phone call.
Clara and Scott were both attending the Water's
Conference at Windows of the World, the restaurant
at the top of Tower One. Richard was invited to
the conference, as well, but decided at the last
minute not to go.
is from Argentina and she's Jewish. I started thinking
about all the different faces from places all around the
world. Every nationality and every religion seemed to
be represented among the missing people pictured on the
fliers. It was then that I started thinking about the
conversation I'd had with Michele's family. Her mother,
Ethel, said she would not go into the local deli because
it was owned by Muslims. In fact, for years when the deli
owners walked past Ethel's house, she'd wave to them from
her porch. Since the attack, however, she deliberately
turned her back on the Muslim family she'd come to know.
Al, Michele's dad, said that Osama bin Laden's funding
came from the "quick-cash items" at the checkout counters
of Muslim-run convenience stores from all over the country.
I had spent several months traveling through the Middle
East, including extensive trips to both Iraq and Iran
during the Iran-Iraq War, and I knew the differences between
the Muslim people and the extremists, like Osama bin Laden.
But a lot of people--like Nicholas' family--didn't. I
wanted to talk to a Muslim family, and find out if they
had experienced increased prejudice since September 11th,
so I began looking around for a Muslim-sounding name on
one of the fliers. There it was.
the way to the pay phone line...we saw her. Her
laugh was always contagious, and her smile was as
big as her sense of humor. Her face was posted on
one of the missing fliers. Richard lost it. He couldn't
stop crying for several minutes. He sat down and
wept. I looked around, and he was just one of several
hundred people in tears. The city was in pain.
Ahmed. He was a waiter at Windows of the World--the
restaurant where the conference was held to which
Richard had been invited--the restaurant from where
Scott, Clara and Gabby watched as Tower Two collapsed
and crumbled to the ground. We later learned that
Gabby was on her cell phone with Muhammad, Muslim
colleague, describing the events as they unfolded
from Tower One, until finally, several minutes later,
her 110-story tomb slowly dissolved and disappeared
from the skyline. Clara, Scott, Gabby and Shabbir
Ahmed were gone.