National Geographic Commemorates 20th Anniversary of 9/11 in New Documentary Series

National Geographic 9/11 Documentary Series

Tomorrow marks the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks in New York City and the Pentagon. While America continues its climb out of the COVID-19 pandemic, 9/11 still resonates deeply as a day of remembrance of the lives lost as a result of the attacks, and of the tragedy and unity that followed in the aftermath. To commemorate the anniversary and to honor the lives lost, National Geographic released a six-part documentary series. "9/11: One Day in America" follows the events of September 11, 2001, through the lens of first responders and survivors who were there on that fateful day.  

"The intention of the series was always to highlight the humanity of that day, to kind of eschew the geopolitics of it and really focus on the people who were there and their personal stories," said Executive Producer Dan Lindsay at the Television Critics Association's summer press tour. "Our approach was to pull focus on the individuals who lived through that day," added Series Producer Caroline Marsden. 

A few of the main subjects of the documentary series include the former assistant chief of the New York City Fire Department who was the first chief to arrive at the World Trade Center on September 11, a former marine who searched for survivors, a fighter pilot who was sent on a mission to intercept the fourth plane, and survivors who managed to escape the Twin Towers. 

Cast members of the documentary also shared their thoughts on how the documentary highlights lessons learned from the aftermath of 9/11 and how the series can help Americans apply those lessons to today's pandemic world. "I think this documentary helps if it brings people back to the days of 9/11 when we found the good in people. Then we can maybe go back there at one point and look back on how good people were right after that event. Maybe we can get there once again," said Ron DiFrancesco, who was the last known person to escape the South Tower on September 11. Lindsay also remarked, "I don't think any of us are prepared to answer that complicated question of what happened but I think the idea of watching this series is to remind us of that time and how people came together in that way and to ask that question through watching it, what has happened."

The documentary team worked on the project for three years and during that time interviewed over 50 people and went through nearly 1,000 hours of footage. The team also worked with an organization that specializes in helping media professionals who have to look at disturbing images and footage. "One of the interesting things they did point out was that you often don't realize the effect it's having on you. So, you can suddenly have these intrusive thoughts or not sleep," explained Marsden. "I think this is something that almost everybody we interviewed who was there on the day experienced times a million."

"We all remember exactly where we were on Sept. 11, 2001. Amidst the tragedy, chaos and sadness, what we also remember are the incredible feats of heroism, selflessness, and humanity on display that day," said President of National Geographic Global Television Networks Courteney Monroe. "With this series, we aim to immortalize these stories and continue National Geographic’s legacy of authentic, powerful storytelling that provides deeper meaning around important historical events."

The "9/11: One Day in America" series began airing on National Geographic on August 29th, and will be rebroadcast on National Geographic today and tomorrow.