NEW YORK - Manhattan resident Stephen Albtraum recalls the grim spectacle as if it were yesterday.
"It was a couple of months after 9/11, and on TV comes this retrospective of 9/11," he remembers. "I thought, 'That's odd, this remembrance of this event no one has been able to forget.' There were lots and lots of shots of the Towers collapsing and pretty portentous narration, but overall it was vaguely respectful and not too exploitative.
"But then," he adds, his voice cracking with emotion, "there was another, then another, and yet another. The unthinkable just kept happening, again and again, with a numbing predictability. One film concerned the animals used to search for remains, another had celebrity recollections of the day, another had TV reporters reliving their coverage and one more had some citizens of some city half a continent away revealing whatever had traversed their brainpan that morning. It was terrifying. I wondered, 'What's happening to my country?'"
"By the one-year anniversary, it was just chilling - you couldn't channel-surf without hitting four or five of these things," adds Brooklyn native Heather Incubo, her eyes tearing up. "The science of 9/11, how religious groups responded to 9/11, how Wall Street responded to 9/11, 9/11 conspiracy theories, 9/11 and climate change, Rudy Giuliani's aides relive 9/11, Beyoncé's fans relive 9/11. I remember screaming at my TV, 'Make it stop! Why isn't anybody doing anything?"
"This is where things really got bleak -- it was like there were sleeper cels of documentarians cobbling these things together out of ordinary household items, like everyone who had ever won a prize at a regional film festival was making a 9/11 retrospective," reflects intelligence analyst Nathan Cauchemar. "It was like Discovery Channel's Shark Week, only everyone was doing them, and we were powerless to stop them. This is America -- we should be stronger than this."
Renaldo Pesadilla warns that on the eve of the 10th anniversary of the terrorist attacks, things will likely get worse before they get better.
"9/11 changed everything, from the increased security at public venues to how news organizations cynically and profitably recycle news footage," reports Pesadilla, who has monitored impending retrospectives with research paid for out of his own pocket. "There are upcoming documentaries about those who were killed when the Towers fell, documentaries about those who survived, documentaries about the victims' children, documentaries about the victims who didn't have children and what those hypothetical children might have gone on to do. Remembrances about the cuisine of 9/11 -- which restaurants were lost on 9/11 and which in the neighborhood survived. NatGeo Channel is even airing a retrospective of previous 9/11 retrospectives.
"About the only good thing that can be said about these mounting myriad documentaries is that they're not showing the Towers crumbling as much as they used to," continues Pesadilla, adding, "Which actually makes them a little more boring than their predecessors."