Thursday, October 18, 2012

That Day: "Twin Towers" (2003)

John Vigiano is one of New York City's most decorated firefighters. He was proud when his namesake, John Jr., joined the fire department, and younger son Joseph became a member of the police emergency rescue unit. Then September 11, 2001 happened, and John Vigiano lost both of his sons in a span of minutes at the World Trade Center. "Twin Towers" is one of the thousands of stories from that day.

Producer Dick Wolf shot a reality show pilot centering around one of New York City's police emergency rescue units. The two dozen unit members are an extended family, and are called upon to do everything from S.W.A.T.-like arrests to water and air rescues. The men are close knit, but Joseph Vigiano stood out. He had been shot five times on two different occasions in the line of duty, a bulletproof vest saving his life each time. He is rather quiet in front of the cameras, talking enthusiastically about how much he loves his job. He also is sure to kiss his three young sons goodbye before he goes to work each day, just in case the unthinkable would happen.

On September 1st, 2001, Joseph's infant son was baptized. Ten days later, the unthinkable did happen. Joseph called his father on a cell phone, telling him he was headed to the World Trade Center. After the towers' collapse, another co-worker called the cell phone, and got a male voice. It was an EMT worker, who had no idea where the cell phone's owner was. It was confirmed that both Joseph, and his older brother, were killed in the collapse while trying to get people out. Fourteen officers from Joseph's unit alone died.

John Vigiano's pain is almost unbearable to watch. He talks about passing on what he learned about having a life threatening career- no matter what the fight or how you feel, kiss your loved ones goodbye no matter what, in case something happens. His pride at raising two competing brothers who drove him crazy sometimes before becoming heroes on that day is uplifting.

"Twin Towers" is both a reference to the World Trade Center, and these two men who were lost. The film makers spend most of their time on Joseph, since his unit was the subject of the television pilot. The film is just thirty four minutes, and I would have liked to seem more about Joseph and John Jr. The directors do incorporate news footage from that day, and it still brings a lump to my throat.

The Vigiano boys died heroically. This film is small, tells its story, and leaves the viewer wanting more. Not only more about these men, but wanting to get that day back. Wanting to know something about all three thousand people who lost their lives that day. It takes a film like "Twin Towers" to remind us that politicians and their spin, petty family problems, and all the other little things that seem so big now are in fact meaningless in the grand scheme of things.

September 11, 2001 was just another day until the first plane hit. Doesn't today seem like "just another day," too? How about yesterday? Last week? We can only prepare for the worst and hope for the best, and forgive the small differences. (* * * *) out of five stars.