Monday, September 11, 2017

Smokin' in the Dorm Room

If you're of an age, you know where you were.

Over dinner at My Noodle & Bar, Mac and I talked about where we'd been the morning of September 11 when we heard the news. She'd heard it on NPR on the way to work while I'd already been at work when the art director came into my office to say that a plane has hit the World Trade Center.

Of course, this being 2001, I immediately assumed that it was some horrible accident. Despite not being a television watcher, at his suggestion I'd followed him into his office to find a tiny TV showing the burning building.

And as I watched, the second plane hit. That was all I needed to get up, walk back into my office and get back to work. I'm not the kind of person who needs to see horror and in those few moments, I'd already seen something I wished I hadn't.

Mid-day, I'd left the office to go to the nearby seafood joint for a shrimp salad sandwich, which I took back to my apartment on Floyd Avenue and ate on the screened porch listening to NPR while trying to process the shift in the world under my feet.

I recall looking at the sky and wondering how it could look so normal.

Because I'm not a TV person, I did not tune in to see any more footage of the attacks then or later. Sure, I saw pictures in the Washington Post and I read thousands of words about what had happened, but I consciously avoided TVs.

Only today, 16 years later, did I see a photograph apparently known as "falling man" and it's not an image I wanted to see. I'd read plenty about people who'd fallen or jumped to their death that day, but I could have lived out my life without seeing an actual photo of it.

Tough as the events that day had been to process as an adult, they were nearly impossible for newly-arrived college students to grasp and that was the basis of "September Morning," a just-released film that made its L.A. premiere Friday.

After a minute of silence for those lost in the attacks, the lights went down as Mac and I scarfed through the holy grail of movie snacks: buttered popcorn and Milk Duds.

Director Ryan Frost had just started classes at University of Richmond when the attacks happened and his script was a result of how he and his posse handled such a momentous event at the tender age of 18.

No surprise, it involved pizza, alcohol and cigarettes, plus endless trivial freshmen discussion of sex, SAT scores, divorced parents, religion, fate and genital size over the course of September 11th into September 12th.

And while the students never said exactly what school they were attening (although they did admit it was no one's first choice for college), the spider on the dorm room wall (near the beige Trimline phone) made it pretty clear to locals it was UR.

In the Q & A with the director after the film, he admitted he'd had the set designed to mimic his UR dorm, complete with bay window.

My biggest complaint with the film was how self-aware these 18-year old were made to sound. Do I believe that freshmen talk about how they were the center of their parents' world? Nope. Or that an 18-year old guy is going to tell his buddies that nothing will change because of a terrorist act? I do not.

That said, I can see how by the age of 30 when he wrote the script, that those lines of dialog seemed necessary to further the theme. But don't try to convince me that any UR kid pontificated about how they really didn't know each other, despite the tragedy-induced closeness they felt that night.

But my main takeaway was about how inherently different those 18-year old kids were than 18-year olds today.

Today's freshmen have a better sense of how awful the world can be (hell, they're living through the most disturbing administration in history, all the while trying to rack up "likes"), so I doubt they could be as affected as the class of 2005 had been.

And that's a tragedy in its own way, but hopefully we'll never have to find out.


  1. Ah, today's young generation...our future??? guess each generation has it's hopes & dreams...then passes on it's own mess to the next. the things we do for love.


  2. All true, cw. Nice to hear from you again...