All the King's Men
The Great Raid
Kingdom of Heaven
Master and Commander
Memoirs of a Geisha
Passion of the Christ
Pirates of the Caribbean
Pride and Prejudice
Walk the Line
World Trade Center (Opening 8/9/06)
Images from that day remain vivid in our memories. But World Trade
Center, Oliver Stone's surprisingly apolitical film about September
11, doesn't dwell on the terribly familiar memory of tall buildings
disintegrating on the skyline. Instead, Stone offers us a micro
view of that morning, a tale of those on the ground, of men who
sought to help despite their own confusion and fear. The film follows
two police officers in particular-- John McLoughlin (Nicolas Cage)
and Will Jimeno (Michael Pena) -- caught in the chaos when a mountain
of steel and concrete fell down on them.
We all know the larger story of September 11, of course. But we
don't know this story, a true, ultimately uplifting tale of two
cops and their families, trying to survive the impossible, and to
make sense of the unimaginable. Here's a guide to explore the real
life in this drama.
Q. McLoughlin and Jimeno identify themselves as PAPD - -Port
Authority police. Is that simply a branch of the NYPD?
A. No, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey is an independent
agency, which maintains and guards New York City's airports, bridges,
tunnels, and the bus terminal. Its police force of 1,200 also patrolled
the World Trade Center, which was owned and operated by the Port
Authority. Thirty-seven PAPD officers died there on September 11.
Q. Once the guys were trapped, what were the later explosions
A. The other buildings of the Trade Center falling. McLoughlin and
Jimeno were trapped when the south tower fell at 10:05 a.m. Twenty-three
minutes later, the north tower also collapsed, sending fireballs
and more deadly debris into the crevice where they were pinned.
A similar thing happened hours later, when Building 7 of the World
Trade Center collapsed at 5:20 p.m.
Q. Was the intense Marine -- the one who found Jimeno in the
rubble -- for real?
A. His story seems improbable, but by all accounts Dave Karnes is
accurately depicted here. A Marine for twenty-three years, Karnes
began the morning as an accountant in Connecticut. Galvanized by
the attacks, he left work, picked up his Marine gear, and stopped
at a barber to get a buzz cut. The deeply religious Karnes then
sought out his pastor for prayer, asking, he said later in an interview,
"that the Lord would lead me to a survivor." He arrived
at Ground Zero in the early evening, and despite the danger of the
still burning, unstable rubble pile, he immediately set out to look
for anyone in need of help.
Q. So, Karnes was the first to reach McLoughlin and Jimeno?
A. Not quite. The movie skips a frustrating moment when Jimeno's
cries for help were answered by someone, who shouted down asking
if a certain person was trapped with them. When Jimeno answered
no, the man walked away, despite Jimeno's pleas that he stay and
Q. McLoughlin and his men were in the lobby of the south tower,
yet didn't seem to know that a second plane had hit that building
almost an hour earlier. Why not?
A. The movie highlights the confusion and miscommunication among
rescue workers during the crisis. This was partly due to heavy radio
traffic, and partly due to reliance on older radios, which didn't
broadcast well in skyscrapers. But it was also the result of a long
feud between New York's Police and Fire Departments. In the decades
preceding 2001, these departments consistently balked at training
together or establishing protocol for communication and cooperation
in a city-wide emergency. So, despite the best of intentions on
September 11, the FDNY, NYPD, and PAPD resorted to habit, and conducted
completely separate and uncoordinated operations. Each group used
its own distinct radio frequencies, and though the city had bought
interagency radios years earlier, these sat unused and forgotten
on storage shelves.
The Fire Department paid the greatest price for this communication
breakdown. Police helicopters circling the towers repeatedly warned
that the upper floors were listing, and the buildings looked in
imminent danger of collapse. Police officers got the message and
evacuated, warning everyone they met of the need to hurry. But firefighters
were deep within the bowels of the towers, with malfunctioning radios,
and according to New York Times journalists Jim Dwyer and Kevin
Flynn, many seemed unaware of the pressing danger. The numbers seem
to back this up. 343 firefighters died that day, while NYPD and
PAPD combined deaths totaled 75.
Q. Did Jimeno really ask McLoughlin to send a radio message
concerning a name for his unborn daughter?
A. He did. Jimeno and his wife, Allison had disagreed over names
for their child, due in November of 2001. Allison wanted Olivia,
a name Jimeno didn't like. Hours after getting trapped, Jimeno asked
McLoughlin to send a radio message requesting the baby be named
Olivia. McLoughlin did so, despite knowing his radio was broken.
Q. What's a good book for more on McLoughlin's and Jimeno's
A. 102 Minutes by Jim Dwyer and Kevin Flynn is a gripping
account of the struggle for survival inside the towers, focusing
both on those who survived as well as those who didn't.
Cathy Schultz, Ph.D. is a history professor at
the University of St. Francis in Illinois.