out of a movie
September 13, 2001
By Franklin Harris
It is something that belongs in a disaster movie — something out of "Armageddon" or the 1976 remake of "King Kong" or a Tom Clancy novel.
"The phrase you heard over and over again was, 'It seemed just like a movie,' " says a television reporter as I type. He has interviewed survivors of the World Trade Center attack, and they all say the same thing.
"It seemed just like a movie."
If anything, if you tried to pitch the events of Sept. 11, 2001, to a movie studio, you would be laughed off the lot.
A terrorist attack involving four hijackings, the destruction of the World Trade Center and severe damage to the Pentagon? No one will believe that, they'd say.
But it is all too real.
At my deadline there is no official death toll, although it must certainly be in the thousands — thousands of victims left in the wake of a vile act of war, committed by madmen in every sense of the term.
President Bush has just addressed the nation, saying that we will hold any country that harbors terrorists just as responsible as the terrorists themselves.
People are crowding the gas station a block from my house. They're filling their tanks because they've heard that gas prices are going through the roof tomorrow morning. I don't know where they hear these things.
In times such as these, you cannot think of mere entertainment. The workaday world stops.
In my e-mail is a message telling me that the Small Press Expo comics convention, scheduled for this weekend in Bethesda, Md., has been canceled. Another comic-book convention, to be this weekend in New York, has been postponed, obviously.
Elsewhere, concerts have been canceled and sporting events and the Emmy Awards postponed.
Another e-mail has just arrived. It says that David Angell, co-creator of the sitcom "Frazier," and his wife, Lynn, were aboard one of the hijacked flights and are presumed dead.
Also presumed dead aboard a hijacked plane is Barbara Olsen, a conservative commentator and wife of the U.S. solicitor general. I remember seeing her on a C-SPAN call-in program this past weekend.
At the Newsarama Web site, there is a message from Bill Rosemann of Marvel Comics. He says that some of the editorial staff there have gone to donate blood and suggests that everyone else do the same.
Marvel's offices are only about three miles from the shattered remains of the World Trade Center.
Most of the Web sites I read daily have added their voices to the calls for prayers and assistance: Cinescape.com, Ain't It Cool News, DarkHorizons.com, IGN FilmForce and others.
Rumors about who will star in the latest superhero movie seem unimportant.
I browse through messages in the Usenet discussion groups: alt.horror, rec.arts.anime.misc, rec.arts.sf.tv and other Internet message boards where folks normally gather and argue about the merits of the "Scream" trilogy or the state of the "Star Trek" franchise.
There, as everywhere, the main topic of discussion today has nothing to do with Jar Jar Binks or Cartoon Network's fall lineup.
All that stuff is trivial. This is real life. And people post messages to friends they've never met face-to-face just to let them know they are O.K.
And there is understandable rage.
A couple of guys who usually argue with me about horror movies want retaliation now, and if a few thousand innocents get in the way, so be it. After all, the terrorists deliberately set out to kill thousands of innocent civilians.
Again, there are calls for prayers and blood donations. And there are reminders, as there always are, that not all Muslims or Arabs or Palestinians are terrorists.
Not that there is any proof, as I write, that any Muslims, Arabs or Palestinians were behind the attacks, although some probably were, or so the faces on CNN say.
CNN and the Fox News Channel are on 24 hours a day, so if they don't speculate about who the bombers are, they'll quickly run out of things to talk about.
But they can't change the subject. No one can. It isn't seemly to talk about anything else when thousands lie dead, retaliation is certain and an endless cycle of violence looms.
And what else is there really to talk about?