This very moving and dramatic documentary, directed by Jules and Gedeon Naudet and James Hanlon, was shown on CBS on the six-month anniversary of the terrorist attacks.
During the summer of 2001, French filmmakers Jules and Gedeon Naudet were making a documentary about the training of a new firefighter assigned to the Fire Department of New York's Engine 7, Ladder 1 Company. They were getting accustomed to the routine of the firehouse and had become friends with the men stationed there. On the morning of September 11, Jules goes with a group of them to check out a reported gas leak. Hearing a low-flying plane overhead, he follows the noise with the camera and shoots the only known video of the first plane striking the North Tower of the World Trade Center. Soon he and the others are barrelling downtown to the now blazing building. They are some of the first rescue workers on the scene.
The World Trade Center was in this company's territory, and these men knew it well. In interviews cut into the on-the-scene footage, they recall their reactions at the time. When they were sent up the stairs, they actually thought they would be able to put out the fire 80 stories up; nobody expected that the Towers would collapse.
Jules is allowed to stay with his company's chief as he is joined by others from around the city in the lobby command center. This insider's view is sobering and startling, especially when the South Tower is hit and collapses. Just minutes before, Jules had filmed the Fire Department's chaplain, Father Mychal Judge, murmuring prayers as he walked through the lobby; now it is his camera's light that enables the others to find the chaplain's body; he had been killed by falling debris.
Meanwhile, Gedeon has come down to the area looking for Jules and the firefighters from the stationhouse. He films the nightmare outside as people flee the Towers and the bitter, dark dust cloud. There is real poignancy in the separation of the Naudet brothers, just two of the thousands of loved ones searching for each other that day. Their story has a happy ending. They find each other back at the station house where miraculously all the others have also survived.
The final section of this powerful film covers the work of same firefighters in the rescue and recovery operation at Ground Zero. Through more interviews, they try to come to grips with the horrific events they have witnessed. Their struggles to put the unspeakable into words are truly laudable. But it is the Naudets' haunting video images that you will never forget.>