In the Shadow of the Towers: Stuyvesant High on 9/11

Stuyvesant High School students were a mere 4 or 5 blocks away in their classrooms, as two jet planes decimated the World Trade Center on 9/11. Their memories of that day and the aftermath are powerful reminders of the tragedy and the collateral damage that haunts all Americans to this day. Photo: Ethan Moses, Stuyvesant HS Class of '02. Courtesy of HBO. "This felt personal. This is New York. This is home." The documentary may be only 35 minutes long, but I challenge you to find a more powerful film about 9/11 than In the Shadow of the Towers: Stuyvesant High on 9/11. The film debuts on HBO tonight, Wednesday, September 11, 2019, 9:00 – 9:35 p.m. ET/PT. (Check listings for additional HBO playdates and availability on HBO

Stuyvesant High School students were a mere 4 or 5 blocks away in their classrooms, as two jet planes decimated the World Trade Center on 9/11. Their memories of that day and the aftermath are powerful reminders of the tragedy and the collateral damage that haunts all Americans to this day. Photo: Ethan Moses, Stuyvesant HS Class of ’02. Courtesy of HBO.

“This felt personal. This is New York. This is home.”

The documentary may be only 35 minutes long, but I challenge you to find a more powerful film about 9/11 than In the Shadow of the Towers: Stuyvesant High on 9/11.

The film debuts on HBO tonight, Wednesday, September 11, 2019, 9:00 – 9:35 p.m. ET/PT. (Check listings for additional HBO play dates and availability on HBO NOW, HBO GO, HBO On Demand and partners’ streaming platforms.)

Producer/director Amy Schatz, a seven-time Emmy® Award winner, revisits September 11, 2001, and its aftermath, via eye witness accounts from former students of New York City’s prestigious Stuyvesant High School. Eight articulate young men and woman–American and foreign born sons and daughters of immigrants–recall in painful detail what it was like to hear, see and feel the impact of planes hitting the Twin Towers from their school building mere blocks away.

Students at Stuyvesant HS witnessed the horrifying attacks on the World Trade Center from their classroom windows. Photo: Gary He, courtesy HBO.

Students at Stuyvesant HS witnessed the horrifying attacks on the World Trade Center from their classroom windows. Photo: Gary He, courtesy HBO.

Several witnessed the point of impact from their classroom windows and recall their shock and disbelief when they realized that human beings were falling from World Trade Center windows. Warning: The accompanying film footage here is graphic.

As Stuyvesant High School lost its footing and power, students, with only Fire Drill experience under their belts, filed out of school en masse and then ran for their lives as huge clouds of detritus from the two falling Towers licked their backs.

“People don’t really talk about the fact that there were kids there,” says Himanshu Suri.

And those kids–now lawyers, medical professionals and parents–pull no punches, nor do the film clips and photos Ms. Schatz chooses to illuminate their up close and personal recollections of that day.

“Absolutely everything changed that day,” admits Ilya Feldsherov, who was 15 at the time.

Stuyvesant HS student Liz O'Callahan was interviewed in a 9/11/01 news clip. She is also one of the eight alumni featured in IN THE SHADOW OF THE TOWERS. Photo courtesy HBO.

Stuyvesant HS student Liz O’Callahan was interviewed in a 9/11/01 news clip. She is also one of the eight alumni featured in IN THE SHADOW OF THE TOWERS. Photo courtesy HBO.

They were academically gifted students of various nationalities, cultures and religions and, most especially, proud New Yorkers who gladly weathered long daily commutes from the outer boroughs just to study at this highly competitive school. They were comfortable in an environment that welcomed diversity, and energized by the promise of what life going forward would be for them in America as immigrants or the children of immigrants…or simply as Americans.  The sky was the limit…until the sky became a conduit for mass destruction.

This film will force you to remember and reflect upon the long-term affects of hate, bigotry and fear on children. This film will move you to tears. And that’s a good thing.

In the Shadow of the Towers: Stuyvesant High on 9/11 debuts on HBO tonight, Wednesday, September 11, 2019, 9:00 – 9:35 p.m. ET/PT.

Photo courtesy HBO.

In association with the 9-11 Tribute Museum, Amy Schatz also produced and directed What Happened on September 11.   The 30-minute film, specifically geared for children, debuts on HBO Family tonight, Wednesday, September 11, 2019, 6:00 – 6:30 p.m. ET/PT.

If you miss tonight’s debuts of In the Shadow of the Towers: Stuyvesant High on 9/11 and What Happened on September 11, check listings for their additional HBO play dates and availability on HBO NOW, HBO GO, HBO On Demand and partners’ streaming platforms.–Judith Trojan

About Judith Trojan

Judith Trojan is an Award-winning journalist who has written and edited more than 1,000 film and TV reviews and celebrity profiles.
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