Commanding 9/11

blog post photo

by Julie Watson
Associate Producer

Final preparations were underway in the London office to fix the filming in New York before the late flight. The office was a frantic mix of team members weighing bags and juggling their contents; repacking and then packing once again. Fully laden, Grace (the director) and I braved the rush hour traffic jams and managed to get to Heathrow on time.


Arriving in the ungodly hours of the morning Grace and I smiled sweetly at the US customs officers and collected our baggage before settling down for the night in our hotel, just off Times Square. After a few hours sleep we got into the swing of things by sampling the mandatory cream cheese bagel for breakfast and setting up office in one of the hotel rooms. With only one full working day left before filming commenced it felt like we had a mountain to climb. We worked hard at calling all of our contacts and setting up necessary meetings for the following day.


We had meetings with our interviewees throughout the day and then headed down to the Financial District to take a look at a potential top shot of the World Trade Centre site from the new number 7 tower. The scale of the area was immense and the history of events on the site inconceivable.

21 & 22/11/09

The weekend was spent conducting recces of potential filming sites — from Central Park through to Battery Park and even catching the Staten Island Ferry past the Statue of Liberty, managing to get some sunset shots of the lady and the Manhattan skyline. Our camera operator, Paul, arrived to join us late on Sunday and shooting styles were discussed over dinner along with trading all the latest industry (and personal) news.


The big filming day had arrived and we headed for the studio on West 24th Street bright and early. We met with Jack and Rich, our sound operator and camera assistant, and set up the studio in preparation for the interviews. Drapes were hung, lights aimed and fired and everything was set. We even managed to squeeze in some on-street GVs around the iconic Flatiron building before the arrival of our first interviewee, Dr. Charles Hirsch. After lunch we welcomed Mr. Giuliani to the studios and felt very privileged to hear his most open account of his experiences of the events of September 11th, 2001.


We met up early with our local filming team and kicked the day off with some filming in Times Square. The only distraction was an open-air concert being given by Rihanna who looked rather cold in her scant outfit under the cold November skies of New York. We went on to film at many more key locations, including the Brooklyn Bridge (with mesmerizing views of Manhattan); Battery Park (with views of the Statue of Liberty); St. Vincent’s Hospital and the Tiles for America memorial.


Our final day in New York was somewhat marred by poor weather: cold, dark, damp and not the most colorful translation of the city on camera. We filmed around the World Trade Centre area in the morning almost got swallowed up by swarms of workers arriving at the train station. Later we spent time filming at the firehouse of Engine Company 24/Ladder 5 where so much had happened on September 11th, 2001. We felt honored that they welcomed us in and were humbled by the help of Lieutenant Michael Thomas and his firefighters. The day and the filming ended in style at The Peninsula Hotel but that wasn’t enough to stop the, now pouring, rain from terminating hopes of any further outdoor filming. Not even Rihanna’s umbrella-ella-ella could save us now.

Video Preview: “Extreme Emergency”
— After the planes crash into the towers, Giuliani witnesses the danger first hand and realizes just how dire the situation is.


Video Preview: “Picking up the Pieces”
— Giuliani remains strong in the midst of great tragedy in order to help the people of New York overcome their grief.

Don’t miss Guiliani’s 9/11 premiering Monday, September 6th at 9P et/pt.


  1. dabroncks
    September 5, 2010, 2:13 am

    As a New Yorker I am deeply offended by Nat Geo’s willngness to broadcast yet this unjustified self-glorification by Rudolph Giuliani. This is the mayor who chose, through pure hubris, to locate the city’s emergency nerve center in the World Trade Center — knowing that the WTC was long a terrorist target from the 1993 bombing. He was not some sort of heroic leader. Quite the opposite: The arrogance with which he chose to ignore common sense left the city having to improvise at the very moment it needed secure, dependable communications and coordination. His subsequent lack of humility and self-promotion is stunning. So, while the rest of the country (apparently including Nat Geo’s producers) has been duped into accepting Giuliani as "America’s Mayor", New Yorkers know better. "Guiliani’s 9/11"?! Now THERE’s an insulting title if ever there was one.