Days Of Filming
Shabbir's family lives in Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn.
They are originally from Bangladesh--a country I knew
fairly well -- so I was looking forward to meeting them.
I've traveled to most of the third world countries,
and I'm pretty comfortable in poor surroundings. My
dad is a Hell's Angel who lives in the mountains with
no running water and no electricity, and a number of
my relatives are homeless. Years ago, I was on a bus
several miles outside Dhaka, the capital of Bangladesh.
As the bus started to move, a woman standing on a dirt
road tossed her baby through my window. I caught it,
and yelled for the bus driver to stop. Still holding
the infant, I got out and ran after the mother of the
baby until I caught up with her. The woman was willing
to selflessly sacrifice her own child, assuming that
a westerner could afford her baby a better life. After
that experience, for the rest of my journey through
Southeast Asia, I traveled with my windows closed. The
people I met in Bangladesh were incredibly warm and
indescribably kind, and Shabbir Ahmed's family was no
Because of the road blocks and barricades, Neil was
unable to get to his family, so on Day 5 he came on
his last shoot, where I first met the Ahmed family.
When I arrived at Shabbir's street, I first saw Abraham,
an elderly Jewish concentration camp survivor with a
very thick accent who was raising money to buy food
for Shabbir's family and to buy American flags to adorn
the street on which they both lived. Abraham showed
me the concentration camp number that was tattooed onto
his forearm--a permanent reminder of his days in Auschwitz.
He then directed me toward Shabbir's front door, his
friend who had been missing since the attack.
16-year-old son, Thanbir (pronounced Dan'-bee-ahr),
invited me in. He first introduced me to his 12-year-old
sister, Nadia, and his 19-year-old sister, Salma,
before meeting Thanbir's mother, Shabbir's widow
Jeba, who spoke only Bengali. Next, I met Shabbir's
brother, Abdul, the uncle to the 3 kids.
Like Michele's family, Shabbir's entire extended family
lives under one roof. After some tea and cakes, we began
discussing the events that had transpired since the
attack only a few days prior. Unlike Michele's family,
however, Thanbir and the rest of his family seemed resigned
to the likelihood that Shabbir was dead. In fact, at
the end of that conversation, Thanbir said, "My dad
is gone. We just have to go on with life."
Well, we were all going on with life. I still had no
home or office, but Thanbir and his two sisters had
no father, Jeba had no husband, and Nicholas still had
no mom. All Nicholas knew was that because of an accident
in Manhattan, his mother was still unable to get out
of the city and return home.
our way back to Tottenville, surprisingly, I got
a signal on my cell phone--I was trying to reach
Dr. Gilda Carle, a very close friend of mine. After
asking her to clear her calendar for the next few
days, she told me that she had not left her home
since the day of the attack. She felt numb. Until
my signal faded away, I told her all about the two
families I had met, and explained some of the dynamics.
Dr. Gilda is a therapist, a published writer, and
a television celebrity.
She was instrumental in working with the mother of a
4-year-old child in a movie I was just completing about
kids who are being raised by porn moms. And since the
entire town of Tottenville knew Dr. Gilda from her appearances
on shows like Dateline, Larry King, and Sally Jessy
Raphael--where, for years she was the resident shrink--there
was already a level of trust. I thought that maybe Dr.
Gilda could talk to Michele's family, and help Robert
discuss Michele's disappearance with his 7-year-old
son. Nicholas still had no idea why his mother was really