Nineteen terrorists hijacked four commercial airplanes on a large-scale suicide mission to attack the United States on September 11th, 2001, killing more than 2,500 people in New York City, Washington, D.C. and Pennsylvania.
In the days after the attacks, airplane travel was suspended. Many families stayed glued to the television as networks repeated footage of planes striking the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and an open field in Pennsylvania while rescue workers sifted through the massive piles of rubble in a desperate search for survivors.
The terrorist attacks sparked a surge in patriotism in America. In one poll, just days after 9/11, 82% of Americans said they had displayed a flag because of the terrorist attacks.
A stunned, but determined nation united around President George W. Bush and Congressional representatives of both political parties as the American military sought revenge in the mountains of Afghanistan, the training center for Al-Qaeda terrorists. Almost 50% of poll respondents came to the sobering conclusion that 9/11 would permanently change the American way of life. They were right.
The ripple effects of the attacks brought fear, disunity, anxiety and powerlessness to our nation that continues to this day. We have turned inward as a country and as citizens. Events, trends and even inventions have contributed to the polarization of the United States. Air travel is not 100% safe even after going through long security lines before boarding. Today, shootings can occur in schools, shopping malls or the movies. Even your bank account can be hacked. The Great Recession of 2008 led to massive layoffs and a loss of personal wealth for many. The income disparity has never been greater. Television has been dominated by petty fights between reality “stars” and political death matches between our elected officials, where party takes priority over country. The rise of the Internet allows people to spew hate against each other in mostly anonymous, vicious postings. The smart phone makes it easy for us to have virtual relationships while ignoring the actual person next to us on the subway and coffee shop. There is no shared sacrifice in a country where less than 1% of its citizens are active military. The future of immigration is being debated. We have become the “selfie” generation.
There is a sense of loss of control; a loss of determining our future. It started with the attacks on 9/11. We beat the terrorists on the battlefield, but here at home, have the terrorists won? Have we let them change us?
To answer those questions, we return to 9/11. We will interview the families of some of the innocent Americans who were killed that day. We will connect with the audience showing that the 9/11 families don’t live in fear of their futures because horrible things have already happened to them. They pursue their dreams perhaps to honor their loved ones and because they know that life is precious and things can change in an instant. We will ask them: “What unites us? We knew the answer on September 12th after we were attacked. Do we know now? How can we get the united feeling back that we had in the aftermath of such horror in 2001?” We will accompany them to a grammar school to ask the youngest American citizens—the post 9/11 generation— “What unites us? What makes us Americans?”
Ultimately, we hope the documentary resonates with viewers to answer those questions for themselves, inspires them to overcome their fears, help them realize they live in the greatest country in the history of the world—a country that still values the American Dream for all Americans.