By Christopher Cassel, Senior Producer
Having lived with the Ground Zero story at close range for more than a year now, it's easy to lose perspective on how little the general public really knows about what's happening behind the fence on those 16 acres, and also how eager that same public is to know more. That high level of interest and curiosity was clear at the History Makers conference last week, where series producer Jessica Conway and I participated in a panel entitled "New York and 9/11."
We were there alongside Nicole Rittenmeyer, whose riveting documentary 102 Minutes that Changed Americalooks at the tragic events of 9/11 minute-by-minute through rarely seen video clips taken at the scene. Our project, The Rising: Rebuilding Ground Zero, is in some ways the sequel. We like to think of it as “the story of 9/12,” that is, the decade-long effort to restore Lower Manhattan to prominence, and to repair the deep emotional wounds that followed the tragedy.
Our story is about more than rebuilding structures, although certainly the engineering behind the new buildings is fascinating and central to our series. But we are telling that story of construction through the eyes of the people doing it, many of whom were directly and profoundly affected by the events of 9/11.
During the panel I shared the story of construction super Brian Lyons who, after losing his brother on 9/11, quit his job to spend nine months on the pile looking for his remains. Though they were never found, Brian then resolved to stay for the entire rebuilding — “from the first bolt until the last bolt” as he says. And then there's Jimmy Walsh, the quiet plumber who is helping engineering the largest man-made waterfalls in the world, at the very site where he lost his beloved mother.
It was those stories that really resonated with panel attendees, as they no doubt will with our audience. The 50 minutes flew by, and before we knew it we were out of time, hopefully having left the audience wanting more. One thing was clear: there is a great level of interest in this story, and therefore a great responsibility on us to tell it correctly and completely. That is also a great honor and privilege.
Having now met so many of the individuals behind this amazing rebuilding effort, Jessica, myself and our entire team understand how lucky we are to get to share their stories with the wider world, and what a great chance we have, together with those individuals, to inspire America and renew that spirit of good will that was so universal on 9/12.
NEXT: WHO DRIVES PROGRESS AT GROUND ZERO