Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Production of the world--beyond the camera

There are certain events in our lifetime that we will undoubtedly remember every detail of. For me, these events include the first time I missed an episode of Full House, the moment I verbally committed to a college for field hockey, the night in which I made my high school graduation speech, the very first step that I took off the plane in Italy my junior year of college, and the exact moment that I watched the twin towers fall. Only one of these experiences I have shared with millions of other people, and we have all experienced in different ways.

One of my favorite things about meeting new people is hearing their stories, taking a trip through a part of their life, and seeing what makes them the way they are. What has a person been through? What stories has that person heard? Where has that person traveled? What is their typical day like? And what could be a disruption to their typical day?

The answer is a traumatic event. I have had many discussions with people about the falling of the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001. Some people seem numb to the fact that it happened, and in others I can still sense devastation. As I walked out of the subway system at the Chambers Street and World Trade Center stop, I realized that I was walking where thousands of people had ran in fear just eight and a half years ago. Later in the day, as I looked out the window of my internship building, I realized that some of my co-workers, my producers, my new mentors may have seen the entire event from a front row view. This terrified me.

As I reached to put my folder away, I realized that I had been met with the tantalizing view again. I looked at my fellow producer, sitting at her desk, and asked how long she had lived in New York. Her response was that she had moved here in the 70’s. My next question was if she had been in our building when 9/11 occurred and her response was no, that she had been doing free lance on the upper west, but that for some time that year, and the years prior she had taken the subway into the World Trade Center and walked through the World Trade Center every day to work, but that it is a day she could never let go of.

I watched her eyes, carefully, as she continued to tell me her story. At the end of each sentence, she paused, taking a breath, as if with each breath she was envisioning that day perfectly. I can imagine that many New Yorkers remember the day in a similar way. She continued telling me the story by jumping to the weeks following before adding on to the day itself. She said that for weeks she envisioned herself walking up through the subway station and seeing the faces of the workers in the shops on the bottom floor--for weeks that's what she saw.

As she continued on telling her story, I realized that what I felt that day compared in no way to what people felt, who were here and part of the entire experience. I felt in a way, really badly at the moment, because speaking about such an event must be traumatizing, in itself, but she didn’t seem to mind telling the story, just so long as she could pause every few moments to re-gather her thoughts.

The story got more intense as she discussed the moments following the first hit and the experience that she had in those following minutes. Before she had known about the second plane crashing into the WTC, she walked down the street and next to her was an Israeli man. As she got into this story, the pauses got longer. The Israeli man turned to her and asked her in a commanding way “You know who did this right?” And her response was no. The words that came out of his mouth next were shocking…”It was those sand N……” I was taken aback as that sentence came out of my producer’s mouth—nearly as shocked as she must have been.

As she continued her story, she mentioned that this was the first moment in which she realized that this could be an act of terrorism…and that she was in such disbelief. The days that followed brought to my producer very somber times. She spoke of a time that she got on a bus, in the city, sat down, rode for a little, and then watched a fireman get on the bus. In the moments that the fireman stepped from the road to the bust, the entire bus went silent. New York City was still in a state of shock.

In the days following my producer’s story, I can honestly say that I am in a little bit of a state of shock as well. When I look back on the events that I remember every detail of, nothing adds up to something as huge and terrible as the trauma and turmoil that the people of New York City felt in those moments of the attacks. My conversation with my producer came at a time when a catastrophic event was taking place across the world, in Haiti. It is these moments, these events, that really build character and personality, that really build a person and broaden the understandings of things around them.

When put into perspective, this story is just one of the millions of stories of people who witnessed the event with VIP access. It is my experiences at the office and my experiences in and around the city that are going to make my internship the most memorable. As I learn about the production world filled with cameras, teleprompters, and sound systems, I learn about the production of the entire world and how we all run—and I think that will be equally as rewarding as the moments I spend behind a camera or at a desk helping to put together a show. It is just one unbelievable story in a library of others that I look forward to hearing in the coming months.

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