Movie stirs 9-11 memories

Norwalk Advocate

I want to see how accurate they are

With last week's opening of 'World Trade Center,' moviegoers all across the country are reliving the horror of Sept. 11, 2001, through the harrowing rescue of two Port Authority police officers trapped beneath the rubble.

But some area residents personally touched by the tragic events don't need Hollywood magic and Nicholas Cage to remind them.

Lucy Karnani of Greenwich was on 64th floor of the south tower waiting for a business meeting when the first plane hit. She was making her way down the stairwell, helping carry a colleague whose legs gave out, when the second plane rocked their building.

Living through it once was enough, said Karnani, who has no plans to see the movie.

She said she suspects it would be too upsetting. A preview for 'United 93,' the film about the hijacked plane that crashed in Pennsylvania, left her shaking.

Not only does Karnani not want to see 'World Trade Center,' she also doesn't want to hear about it. Recently, a new friend who did not know she is a survivor, started talking about the movie and Karnani asked her to change the subject.

'It doesn't surprise me that they made a film about it. Certainly if they made a film about Hurricane Katrina I would go see it,' she said. 'It's just this one's too personal for me.'

Another woman, a Stamford resident who ran down dozens of flights of stairs to safety on Sept. 11 against the instructions of Port Authority workers who told her to return to her 84th floor office, said she can't stand to watch television commercials for the film, which opened Wednesday.

'I think it's still too raw to make a movie for profit,' she said. 'Who wants to go to a movie and see that for entertainment?'

Family members of victims also are reluctant to buy tickets.

Susan Fisher of Greenwich, who lost her husband of 32 years, Bennett, on Sept. 11, said she's in no rush to join the thousands of Americans who have already made Oliver Stone's latest movie a box office hit.

'World Trade Center' grossed $4.4 million on opening day -- and debuted as the No. 2 movie in the country behind the Will Ferrell comedy 'Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby,' according to Exhibitor Relations Co. Inc., which tracks box office sales.

'My tears are not so far from the surface that I can see that kind of stuff,' said Fisher, a teacher in Rye, N.Y.

Though the story line about police officers is unlikely to be similar to her husband's experience -- Bennett Lawson Fisher, 58, was a senior vice president of Fiduciary Trust Co. International who worked on the 97th floor of the south tower -- Susan Fisher said she's not ready to watch the tragedy unfold on the big screen.

But Fisher said the time may come when she rents the film with a close friend and watches it 'with my finger on the fast-forward button.'

David Woodward of Norwalk, whose son-in-law William Hunt died in the World Trade Center, said the movie is probably of more interest to those more removed from the events of that sunny morning nearly five years ago.

'I don't think we'll see it,' Woodward said last week. 'We're trying to get past that.'

But he said he's glad the film was made, saying it should keep the day's events from slipping out of the country's collective memory as the years go by.

'It's probably a good reminder for people because the further you get away from it the less you think about it,' Woodward said.

Others who lost loved ones, or were there that day, like Lonny Tranos of Stamford, are anxious to see the film.

Tranos, who was the chief engineer for the Marriott hotel in the trade center and who witnessed the collapse of the towers, is curious to see how realistic the film is.

'I want to see how accurate they are,' he said.

The movie is based on the real-life stories of two Port Authority police officers, Will Jimeno and John McLoughlin, who go into the building to evacuate people and end up pinned underground beneath piles of steel and concrete for hours.

One of the characters who find the men and lead them to safety is based on David Karnes, a Stamford man who left his job in Wilton to help with rescue efforts at ground zero.

Karnes, speaking through a co-worker, declined an interview last week, saying he wasn't comfortable talking about the film because he had not been consulted during production.

A spokeswoman for Paramount Pictures, which made the film, did not return phone calls seeking comment.

Mary Fetchet of New Canaan, one of the founders of Voices of Sept. 11, an advocacy group for victims' families, attended the New York premiere earlier this month and was impressed.

'It really was a very heartwarming story,' she said.

Fetchet, who lost her son Bradley, 24, in the twin towers, said she could relate to the uncertainty and fear the main characters' wives felt. But Fetchet said their stories were different enough from her own to separate herself.

She said films like 'World Trade Center' and two television projects in the works are more than entertainment.

'These films are going to be very valuable for people elsewhere in the country to understand what we went through that day,' Fetchet said. 'It's important to document the stories from a historical perspective, and also for people who want to understand other people's perspectives from that day.'

But not every survivor or victim's relative is going to agree, she said.

'My sense is, everyone has to make a personal decision if they can tolerate being reminded of that day,' Fetchet said.

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