In the weeks leading up to 9/11, the major television networks are airing a slew of original documentaries to commemorate the attacks. Soledad O'Brien’s CNN special "Beyond Bravery: The Women of 9/11" will focus on a story that hasn't always been at the front lines of news coverage: the experience of female first responders.
The documentary, which airs Monday, September 5 at 11 p.m. ET/PT, sheds light on the lives of women in fire, police and emergency medical services who risked or gave their lives on 9/11. It is based on the book "Women at Ground Zero: Stories of Compassion and Courage," which profiles some of those women.
O'Brien was running errands in New York when the Twin Towers were hit. In a phone interview, O’Brien told The Huffington Post that "everyone has their own story" about 9/11, and that the story she was telling in her documentary was one of "a million." But she said that the role of women in responding to the crisis has been overlooked.
"This is just one interesting version of those stories, and I hope that people see another facet of what it was like to go through that experience," she said.
In the documentary, female firefighters, police officers and an EMT recall what it was like responding to the attacks and the struggle to gain equal footing as one of few women in their fields. Terri Tobin, a deputy inspector of the New York Police Department, told O'Brien, "I don’t think that there was any task that was performed down there by men that was not performed by women." She added, "No, I don’t think that everyone knows that."
The rescue and recovery workers interviewed also reflected on their experiences of losing their colleagues and the health effects they still suffer ten years later. O'Brien said that hearing the painful recollections was difficult.
"I did not expect that it would be so hard to hear those stories when I first heard about the project and then you realize hearing people’s grief over and over again is hard to take sometimes," she said.
But she also pointed to the story of police officer Moira Smith, who died in the collapse of the South Tower after guiding dozens of people to safety. Smith left behind her husband and two-year old daughter, who is now 12 and reflected on her mother's sacrifice in the documentary. O'Brien called the story "a metaphor for how the world keeps turning and the resilience of people and New Yorkers that ten years later, babies have grown up to be young men and women, and we keep moving forward."
That story is one of several presented in the special, which will be a part of a wide array of television coverage of the 9/11 anniversary. Some observers have called the coverageexcessive. O'Brien made her thoughts about those views very clear.
"Anybody who thinks that has their head in the sand," she said.
More:September 11 Anniversary September 11th Soledad O'brien Decade After 9/11 In Entertainment And Culture
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