"American Experience" New York: Center of the World (TV Episode 2003) Poster

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One of the Most Heartbreaking Films I've Seen
The-Fire-At-Any-Time7 October 2007
Warning: Spoilers
Ric Burns's series on New York, at 8 episodes, sadly proved anticlimactic. In New York: Center of the World, almost more an epilogue, he focuses on the birth, awkward maturation, success, and death of the Twin Towers. While the history involved, because of 2001's events, holds few secrets here, the film does offer a rich history of the World Trade Center. Throughout the film there is narration/interview contribution by roughly a dozen developers, architects, writers, and New York politicians.

I found the logistics of designing the towers very interesting, including one particular physics exercise conducted on the sly 3000 miles across the country from Manhattan. The growth pains of the WTC from its early white elephant status to that of an almost living, breathing part of New York City is bridged beautifully here. The story of renaissance man/busker/daredevil Phillip Petit, whose obsessive love for the Twin Towers drove him to join them with his high wire embrace, marks a turning point for both the WTC and New York, as seen through the 110 story prisms. Still, for all the wonder and triumph realized by the towers and all of the people touched by their presence, the inevitable dread of September 11, 2001 looms, and comes to dubious fruition all too quickly, as it did six years ago.

Regardless of all the other 9/11 material I have digested, the account of that day here is mercilessly effective. One difference to note: while most 9/11 documentaries focus primarily on the loss of human life, this film also concerns what the towers meant to New York and its individual and collective sense of self. That may sound trite to some, but I found it a unique and valuable way of pondering the irreparable pain incurred by a great city and its people.
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