By: David Hinckley | NY Daily News
Emmanuel Dunand/AFP/Getty Images
Two upcoming TV specials argue that it’s time to salute what replaced New York’s Twin Towers, not just focus on what brought them down.
To mark the 13th anniversary of 9/11, the History and Smithsonian channels have compiled two separate and quite different specials on the construction of the Freedom Tower and other buildings at the World Trade Center site.
History’s “Rebuilding the World Trade Center,” which runs two hours, will air Sept. 11 at 6 p.m.
Smithsonian’s “Crowning New York,” an hour long, will air Sept. 7 at 8 p.m.
“Rebuilding the World Trade Center” focuses on, quite literally, the nuts and bolts of the construction process.
It starts with clearing the site, then digging down to bedrock to anchor the foundation.
Marcus Robinson, the filmmaker, followed the process for eight years to compile the final film.
Among other things, he had 13 time-lapse cameras set up around the site, which give us fascinating shots of, say, the cranes that cleared the initial debris.
In time-lapse, they look like energetic yellow crickets.
The stars of the film are the welders, ironworkers, machine operators and other craftspeople who actually wrestled the beams into position and smoothed the concrete on the floors.
Occasionally they touch on issues like the acceptance of women in construction jobs, but even then they are 100% upbeat.
They talk repeatedly about the symbolic importance of this building, the way it shows America’s determination and resilience.
The sense that thousands of workers all kept a single unified sense of purpose for eight years is heartening and inspiring, though it also will amuse anyone who ever worked for more than five minutes on any construction site.
The universal pastime there is complaining. Why are we doing it this way? Why didn’t that get taken care of? Doesn’t anybody in charge know what’s going on?
That’s not the point of the film, of course. But just saying.
Smithsonian’s “Crowning New York” takes a much broader view of the project.
Its premise up front is that the fall of the towers changed New York’s skyline in both physical and psychological ways.
What replaced them would have a similarly dual impact.
So “Crowning” goes much more into concepts and proposals and the esthetics of the designs that were ultimately selected.
While the workers get their props here, too, “Crowning” focuses more on the healing effect of planning and then physically erecting a building that said New York and America had gotten back on their feet.
Interestingly, neither documentary spends much time on alternate proposals that were rejected. Both also steer clear of the simultaneous, much more contentious debate about the memorial and museum at the site.
Developer Larry Silverstein appears in both documentaries, treated as a triumphant victor who has served all of us well.
As all this suggests, Freedom Tower history is recounted with a certain selectivity in both these new productions.
In both cases, however, that was clearly a deliberate artistic choice with a specific purpose: to help accelerate the gradual shift of 9/11 discussion from regret to determination.
It’s a process, and these are steps.