For students from elementary to high school, the Sept. 11 terrorist attack a memory. According history. A new HBO documentary that debuts the event's 18th anniversary treats it that way.
The necessity of her project, "What Happened on September 11," struck filmmaker Amy Schatz when a third grade girl told her about a playdate where she and a friend Googled “Sept. 11 attacks. ”
“ When a child does that, what he or she finds are some pretty horrific images that are not necessarily appropriate for kids, ”Schatz said on Tuesday. “So I felt a responsibility to try to fill that void and try to give the kids something that wasn't horrifying and kind of fills in the gap.”
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The half-hour movie debuts Wednesday at 6 p.m. A companion piece, focusing on the memories of former students at a high school near Ground Zero, premieres three hours later.
Schatz has made a specialty of creating films that seek to explain the inexplicable, with “The Number on Great-Grandpa's Arm ”tackling the Holocaust and another on Parkland shooting. "It is really desperate for some more light very soon," she said.
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In this case, she worked with the Sept. 11 remembrance museum on the story, filming two men who work there giving presentations to third graders. Stephen Kern, who worked on the 62nd floor of the World Trade Center's North Tower, talks about being evacuated. Matthew Crawford, whose father was a firefighter who died that day, discusses his experience. She also found a high school in Secaucus, New Jersey, that teaches history through art and poetry, helping students process the emotions of what they have learned.
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Short history lessons are sprinkled throughout the film, about the New York and the World Trade Center towers in the world. Construction began in 1968.
“One of the biggest questions the kids have is why? 'Why would anyone do that? Why would there be such cruelty? '' She said. “It's a very difficult thing to grapple with and answer so that was the trickiest part of the project.”
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of Usama bin Laden and his activism that began with the Soviet Union's invasion of Afghanistan. But it never truly answers the whys.
Schatz does not avoid some of the terrible images of the day: the second plane striking the World Trade Center and the resultant fireball, the collapse of each tower and the giant clouds of debris that billowed through the canyons of city streets. Schatz didn't want to avoid those clips, since the kids knew that the planes crashed into the buildings, but she opted not to spend much time on them “so that we didn't create too many after-images lingering in people's minds.”  TATTOO HELPS 9/11 SURVIVOR'S EMOTIONAL WOUNDS HEAL
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As part of her research, Schatz interviewed alumni of Stuyvesant High School near the World Trade Center site. But the memories of what they saw, heard and smelled that day – and the uncertainty of how they would get home from school – spent too raw. That's Why "In The Shadow of Towers: Stuyvesant High on 9/11" is a separate movie that premieres on HBO three hours after the first one.
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Schatz said a school curriculum is being developed to teach children about the tragedy, and “What Happened on September 11” will be made available to schools for free. The film is directed generally at children ages 7 to 12.
Throughout her work, Schatz kept returning to the memory of the youngster searching for details about Sept. 11 on the internet.
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“You can protect kids from whats going to come across,” she said. "It seemed to me that there was an opportunity to put something out there that is age-appropriate and not too scary and give them the tools they need to understand the world around them."