Army of Mom

So this is how liberty dies ... with thunderous applause.


United 93

Army of Dad and I went to see United 93 last night. I wish I could remember everything to give you a blow by blow account of the movie, my feelings and the atmosphere.

Suffice it to say that the emotions were overwhelming.

We went to the 10:20 p.m. Saturday night show. I was pleasantly surprised at the 75 percent full theater and the largely college age crowd. We arrived early because we weren’t sure if the theater would sell out or not and we wanted good seats. I was reading a magazine and watching the Behind the Scenes movie clips (I like this new feature at the Cinemark) and people-watching. AoD was playing video games.

In walks three 20-something Middle Eastern guys. My first instinct was “Wow, these guys want to see the movie. They must be brave.” Then, the hair on my arms sort of stood on end and I wondered, or is that why they’re here? Are we going to be one of the places where they stand up and scream something in Arabic and try to kill us all? Are they going to try and disrupt the movie?

I text messaged AoD about their arrival. Ironically, he thought I was texting him that the movie was starting and that was the movement on the big screen. He came in and realized what I meant, scanned the theater and spotted them.

I found myself caught between feeling cautious and on guard or feeling like a shithead for being suspicious of what could be some very nice hard-working students.

Then, the lights went down. After a few previews, the movie starts very unceremoniously as we watch the terrorists starting their day with prayers and getting ready for their suicide/murderous mission.

I felt my heart start to beat faster. My stomach began to churn. The anxiety in my chest got tighter. I found it harder to breathe. I reached in my purse and grabbed a tissue in anticipation of what was coming.

We see them – and the passengers and crew of United 93 – go through their routine of getting ready for a flight. All the “what if’s” running through my head. What if this had happened? What if that happened?

The movie is shot in real time of the events that unfolded that day. Funny, because it seemed like it all happened much faster in my recollections of that day, but when I think back, I know it wasn’t as quick moving as I thought. I still have memories of Sept. 11 burned into my memory.

As things progress for about 15 minutes, the sick feeling in my stomach isn’t going away and I was afraid I’d throw up. So, I left and dry heaved in the bathroom for a minute or two, splashed cold water on my face and returned. The gag reflex was still strong for about 30 more minutes before it finally settled. Then, the anxiety moved in. It was getting harder to breathe.

The movie is shot largely with a hand-held camera. You don’t get to know anyone personally. It is very much as if you’re on the flight with them. Think about the last time you flew. You overhear snippets of conversations – the business man telling his office what needs to get done; a husband and wife planning their events upon landing; someone calling a lover; the crew meeting each other or complaining about their schedule. And, you know no one’s names.

You never feel emotionally involved with these people, yet you do – mostly because you know what is going to happen. You hear the pilots talking – one about an anniversary trip with his wife and the other about his 11-month-old baby. So, no, I don’t get inside a character, but I felt the pain of those who loved them. Because I knew what was going to happen. It was like watching a horror movie and wanting to tell the teenaged girl not to open the door. I wanted to scream at the screen “NO NO NO. Don’t let them on. Can’t you tell what they’re going to do?” I felt that feeling the whole time.

I was amazed to watch things unfold in real time – they showed us not only the flight, but the air traffic controllers in several cities where the action unfolded. They showed us the military. They showed the lack of communication and chain of command and why this tragedy was able to be accomplished because we let our guard down.

So many thoughts running through my head. I’m actually writing a story now for a homeland security magazine on the state of our first responders (cops, firefighters, EMTs, etc) and thoughts about what the experts were telling me went through my head. I had an aha moment. This movie and the action – and lack of it – made a lot of what they were telling me make more sense. (on a side note, I spoke with an NYPD senior cop Saturday afternoon who told me that he felt the NYPD was completely prepared for anything thrown at them. Other officials were not so sure about the rest of the country.)

As the flights were grounded in the movie, I instantly remembered what I felt like that day as the flights were grounded. My sister-in-law and her new husband were on their honeymoon in Hawaii. I guess there are worst places to get stuck, but it was scary. They had planned a trip to Pearl Harbor on the 11th. It was closed because of the attacks and they didn’t get to go. My parents were on the East Coast on vacation. I remember driving down the road, praying that they were ok and sobbed big heart-wrenching cries as I drove down the road – terrified that they were on a flight that was going to be highjacked, too, before flights were stopped. I was never so grateful for air traffic to sit still. Then, I got a phone call from my dad. They were fine. They were planning on flying back the next day, but they were going to try and rent a car to drive home. It took them a few days, but I was so glad to hear from them. I had to pull over because I couldn’t safely drive anymore. Then, the guilt hit me like a ton of bricks. My family was ok. There were thousands whose weren’t.

As the action in the movie went on, I felt so many emotions. I alternated between crying softly to shaking to being so mad that my tissue was almost decimated. I was mad at these awful men who hate us so much. I was mad at them for hardening my otherwise soft heart.

I watched the screen as the passengers killed the terrorists with their bare hands. I cried and was sad because I feel like the terrorists took away some of the softness that makes me a tenderhearted person. I can’t watch Ultimate Fight Challenge with AoD because it hurts me and upsets me to watch these men beat each other up. Yet, here I was watching the passengers beat the snot out of these men. At one point, one terrorist’s neck was snapped. I was happy to see it happen. That makes me miserable. Then, the plane crashes and there is nothing.

The movie has some additional information at the end that runs before the credentials, but it was amazing – as the people left the theater, no one said a word. Not a single word was uttered. We stayed until the very end. Reading the credits, some of the air traffic controllers and military people in the movie portrayed themselves. That was interesting.

When we finally cleared out, after stopping by the restrooms, there was a group of about nine Middle Eastern men – among them, the three I saw in our movie – standing outside the exit talking in Arabic. That seemed odd to me. I just wondered if there were ulterior motives there as I was thinking back to the Muslim organization who was trying to see how hassled they could be at Nascar races. I certainly hope that wasn’t the case, but I sure have my suspicions. From what I saw, no one looked at them twice.

Regardless, great movie. I highly recommend it. It was rated R probably for the violence and content, some language. I wouldn't take a kid younger than 14 or so to see it and at that, it depends on the kid. My kids won't see this for a while. I saw no political undertones to the picture and that was appreciated. You can judge it for what it was - an eye-opening experience for the US.


  • At 9:35 PM, April 30, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    This was GREAT !!

    Its alright to be suspicious AoM.....everyone should be

    Semper Fi !

  • At 8:58 AM, May 01, 2006, Blogger Army of Mom said…

    Thanks. I got emails back from my father-in-law (who has to be a world traveler for his profession and LOVES people of every culture) who said he vividly remembers that fateful day and even he is still suspicious and ultra-cautious everywhere he goes. He, too, said he hates those terrorists for "turning my open minded conception and acceptance of all peoples to one that now has to be qualified."

    I got an email from my childhood best friend, too. She said "I would have had the same thoughts as you did seeing those guys at the movie. It is sad that the world has come to this but we do have to keep our guards up."

    Maybe these people made their point, but I think they've done their faith and their people a great disservice. I have Muslim friends and I've met incredibly wonderful Muslim people in my life who were/are truly peaceful, dear people. But, after 9/11, few of us will ever be able to meet or see a stranger with olive colored skin and not help but wonder how much they hate us. I hate that about myself now.

  • At 9:12 AM, May 01, 2006, Blogger Gadfly said…

    Thank you so much for the review. I was so afraid it would have politics in it -- and I knew I couldn't stand watching it if it did.

  • At 9:46 AM, May 01, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Or, perhaps.... just perhaps... the three Arabic men were there to simply to see the movie.

  • At 10:19 AM, May 01, 2006, Blogger Army of Mom said…

    Yep, LabKat, I mentioned that thought, too.

    I'm simply saying that it sucks to feel suspicious of people and I wouldn't have felt that way had it not been for the events of 9/11. I think it is unfortunate that people's choices tend to make me suspect of what could be some very fine upstanding young men. No idea either way. They didn't do anything to me and no one did anything to them. Just unfortunate that in society today, I feel like I have to have my guard up - and it is no fault of these men that I have to feel that way. That is unfortunate.

    Still, a very good movie and one I recommend.

  • At 4:24 PM, May 01, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    AoM: Hats off to one J-school grad from a considerably older one (University of Illinois, 1979).

    Your review was considerably more evocative than any among the several "professional critics'" reviews I've seen. Bravo.

    Haven't yet seen it, but will soon.

  • At 6:39 PM, May 01, 2006, Blogger Melessa Gregg said…

    "I found myself caught between feeling cautious and on guard or feeling like a shithead for being suspicious of what could be some very nice hard-working students."

    I live in a college town and find myself feeling this way a lot. Like you, I see both sides of the fence. When 9/11 happened, we were in the process of having a house built by a construction company run by three Muslim brothers who worship more at the alter of Capitalism than Islam, but I felt for them. They pretty much draped themselves and their company in the American flag and I'm glad to say it worked for them. My trust in them didn't change, but sadly my trust in people I don't know certainly has. I'm not sure I'll see this movie, though I appreciate your review of it.

  • At 8:02 PM, May 01, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Thanks AoM for this post. This is a movie I want to see, or at least support. This is the first movie that I could buy a ticket for, and purposely not sit through (other than "Saving Pvt. Ryan", in hindsight).
    I don't need to be reminded. But plenty of others do. The MSM want to "shield" us from it, just as they have for years.
    Well, dammit. This is something we NEED to remember. Stop the sugar-coating. And stop thinking we can "reason" with these monsters. To them, anyone who is not Muslim (however radical they choose to interpret the religion) is the enemy. Period.
    The fact that this was endorsed overwhelmingly by those heroes' families is enough to tell me that it's worth every penny and much more.

  • At 6:55 AM, May 02, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    We will be getting a copy on DVD to show the kids when it is more appropriate.

  • At 11:53 AM, October 11, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Go Watch the documentary Loose Change on youtube. It's about September 11th and extremely eye opening.


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