Few images in history are as seared in America’s consciousness as that of American Airlines Flight 11 crashing into the North Tower of the World Trade Center in 2001. In the days, months, and even years following the attack, the horrific events of that day and the aftermath have been relived through the media — so much so that it’s hard to remember a time before Sept. 11.
Premiering Sunday, Sept. 7, at 8 p.m. ET/PT, 9/10: The Final Hours takes us moment by moment through the day before everything changed, before the “war on terror” became a part of everyday vernacular. We’ll hear from those who worked inside the World Trade Center, whose snap decisions resulted in narrow misses of the attack, as well as men and women who confronted the terrorist mastermind of the operation, Mohamed Atta, during his sudden — and still unexplained — detour to Portland, Maine.
We also see the World Trade Center from another unique perspective, that of the artists who lived and worked on the 91st and 92nd floors of the North Tower. This combination of perspective brings this last day of innocence into new — and striking — focus. In the words of Director Erik Nelson, “So many films have told the story of the unfolding tragedy of Sept. 11 that we decided to explore what happened on the eve of that moment — a new look at the life, and not the death, of the World Trade Center and the men and women who worked there. Sept. 10, 2001, was just a day like any other, but of course, it was so much more than that. We’ve tried to construct a time portal back to that day, back to this now lost world.”
Jim Watkins, co-anchor of Channel 11 Weeknight News, reports on the big stories of the week — shark attacks and “Blockbuster” replacing videocassettes with DVDs — stories that quickly become yesterday’s news. Mark Green and his family look forward to Sept. 11 with optimism as the day New Yorkers may choose Green as the “can’t lose” Democratic mayoral candidate. And for some who did cast their vote that morning, it became the difference between life and death.
Meanwhile, a waitress at Pizza Hut in Portland, Maine, serves terrorists Mohamed Atta and Abdulaziz Alomari their last meal, later noting, “You can look evil in the face and you don’t realize it until something big happens.” Michael Tuohey — a customer service representative for US Airways who has only spoken to the FBI until now — checks in Atta and Alomari for their flight.
Back in New York, Howard Lutnick, CEO of Cantor Fitzgerald, drops his son off at his first day of kindergarten — a deviation from his daily routine that saves his life. And artist Wolfgang Staehle focuses on his latest project, in which cameras document the unchanging New York City skyline. He captures what might be the last image of the towers still standing before he ultimately records something very different — the consequences of the hijackers “evil,” a never-before-broadcast image of Flight 11’s impact on the North Tower.
The 9/11 Memorial Museum provides a backdrop to the film’s narrative, along with an interview from Chief Curator Jan Ramirez, who comments of the World Trade Center, “people need to know what was there — to better understand what is not there.”
The special two-hour documentary, 9/10: The Final Hours, premieres Sunday, Sept. 7, at 8 PM.