There are just so many times that we can view the horror of war and tragedy before our minds and emotions become numb. In the midst of such calamities, we are glued to our TV sets, watching the same scenes over and over again. We try to understand what is happening, but our minds can’t fully grasp the depth of evil that is playing out in front of us.
The images of what happened at the World Trade Center in New York on September 11, 2001, are so fresh in most people’s minds, that they can remember virtually every feeling as they watched these scenes of destruction occur. With these images still fresh in our minds, the release of Oliver Stone’s “World Trade Center” is a film that many may feel might dredges up feelings that are still too raw to handle. But, to his credit, Stone has focused his story-telling ability on the very human side of altruism, the desire to help others at the risk of losing your own life.
This is the true story of John McLoughlin (played by Nicolas Cage) and Will Jimeno (played by Michael Pena), two Port Authority Officers who entered the first tower to help in the evacuation and became among the last three people rescued from the rubble three days after the towers’ collapse. Even though we are spared the scenes of graphic horror of this event, the imagery that is created by Stone is remarkable.
The facts of this story are fairly well known. Officers McLoughlin and Jimeno were caught in the collapse of an annex adjacent to tower one, and they survived even though they were crushed under 20 feet of steel and concrete. As the many hours ticked away, their families, like most families of police officers and firemen that day, tried to imagine their loved ones somehow escaping what seemed like certain death. An off duty marine, Dave Karnes (Michael Shannon), continued to search the rubble even though it seemed hopeless, and after three days discovered both officers still alive. McLoughlin and Jimeno were rescued, but were hospitalized for weeks facing up to 27 surgeries in order to survive.
“World Trade Center” is a reminder that the human spirit is kept alive by hope. We can live for a while deprived of love, and our faith can often be weak or even absent, but we cannot live without hope. Even though they were buried under tons of rubble and their legs were crushed in pain, McLoughlin and Jimeno kept each other alive by telling stories of their lives; how they loved their wives, and what hopes they had for their children. Their families back home held each other up emotionally by recounting stories of brave acts that their husbands and fathers had survived before. Marine Karnes felt called by God to join in the rescue search, and John McLoughlin cries out to God for eternal hope at the moment that he believes his life is at an end.
Wars, and rumors of wars, will always be with us. This film may not answer all of the questions about the seeds of terrorism or the justification of responses to evil attacks, but it does remind us that in the end we can either respond in self-righteous anger, or in a quest for righteous justice. It also reminds us that in the midst of any tragedy, mankind rises to its truest calling when it responds to human suffering with intense compassion and with a level of commitment that lays down our lives for others.
- When Marine Karnes felt called by God to join in the rescue search he could have easily dismissed it and not gotten involved. If he had he would not have become an answer to John McLoughlin’s prayers. Have you ever responded to a sense of God’s call and found yourself to be an answer to someone’s prayers?
- The power of hope and the devastation of hopelessness has been documented throughout history. That is why in Dante’s Inferno, the sign that hangs above hell is “Abandon all hope you who enter here.” Have you ever experienced a time or place of hopelessness? Have you known others who have? What happened? How was hope brought into the situation?
- The decision of people to attack the World Trade Towers with passenger aircrafts is beyond our comprehension. How have you come to understand why this happened?
- It is expected that when we love someone we will “lay down our lives for them.” But when we have police, firefighters and Port Authority officers willing to die for those they do not know we see a new level of love. Why do you think a person would do this? Would you?