This is what I remember from the morning of Sept. 11, 2001
This is what I remember of that awful September 11 morning in 2001.
The air was cool, crisp and clear, which was unusual for a September morning in the Florida Panhandle.
The newsroom was empty except for Ralph Routon and Brenda Shoffner, who were staring at a wall-mounted TV in the corner.
I didn’t believe Ralph when he told me a commercial airliner had crashed into the World Trade Center. I didn’t believe him when he said it was intentional. No American pilot would do such a thing, I said.
I didn’t know the first plane had hit. I didn’t know the second plane had hit until I saw it on the little TV sitting on the file cabinet in the Art Department. Then, I knew we were under attack.
I remember bulletin after bulletin coming over the Advisory wire from The Associated Press. One I remember distinctly – it said the sound of explosions and gunfire were reported from the Capitol building.
I began making a list of stories we would need to do. It was not my place but I did it anyway because I thought it needed to be done. An hour later I threw it out. Things were changing that fast.
The phone was ringing off the hook. People were calling in a state of panic.
Almost instantly, American flags appeared everywhere. Ribbons on car antennas. Lapel pins. Buttons.
I called Mom. My nephew Michael was visiting her. I said something like, “Did you see what those bastards did?” Yes, she had seen the news. Like me, she couldn’t believe it.
People teared up as fighter jets roared overhead.
The newsroom was busier than I had ever seen it. So many people, so much noise. Lots of yelling. Telephones ringing. TVs blaring.
The decision was made to lead the front page with a photo of New Yorkers running from the dust cloud of the collapsing World Trade Center. I remember strongly disagreeing with that choice. I thought it should have been one of the buildings exploding, but at that time I was editing the features sections and did not have a say.
I went home and watched it on TV. I remember becoming sick to my stomach. I called my friend Debbie Lord and we talked about it. I just needed to hear a voice.
Finally, I couldn’t stand it anymore. I turned the channel to HGTV and watched something about remodeling a house. Years later I would do the same when Hurricane Ivan was threatening.
In the days that followed, more shocks would be forced upon us – anthrax in the mail, a plane out of New York City going down. It all seemed unreal and it was too much to digest – the worry, the fear.
But there was some good that emerged from the tragedy. Americans united as I had never seen in all my life.
One of the men who tried to storm the cockpit of United Flight 93 was the son-in-law of a writer I knew. Another was gay, but that wasn’t something a lot of people wanted to hear about.
The newspaper used an entire page to print an American flag. I saw those newsprint flags hanging in windows all over town for months after the attack.
And in the years that followed, a war, an economic meltdown, a warming climate, a pandemic and a violent schism in our culture.
Americans are more divided than I have ever seen in all my life. They fight – physically fight – against wearing a facemask so that they don’t spread a deadly virus, or receiving a vaccine that could end a deadly pandemic. They buy guns and brag about overthrowing the government and promise to kill the loyal opposition. They vote for mentally ill people who lie to their faces and laugh at them behind their backs.
I wonder what the people of Sept. 11, 2001 would have thought about the world of today?
I bet they wouldn’t believe it.
I bet they’d be ashamed.
Photo courtesy of Michael Foran of Flickr via Creative Commons license.
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“Kate” Starring Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Miku Patricia Martineau, Jun Kunimura, Woody Harrelson, Tadanobu Asano. Directed by Cedric Nicolas-Troyan
106 minutes. Rated R. Netflix.
My deep love for Mary Elizabeth Winstead remains unabated. She’s terrific in “Kate,” the new brawler film on Netflix. She’s been terrific for years. McClane’s daughter in “Live Free or Die Hard.” Terrific as a different Kate in “The Thing” prequel. Beyond superb in “10 Cloverfield Lane.” Should have been nominated for a Best Actress Oscar but the Academy dislikes sci-fi and horror. Assholes. Winstead was the only reason “Gemini Man” was tolerable. I bet she’s terrific in “Birds of Prey” as The Huntress.
Other critics have somewhat panned “Kate.” I attribute that to silly expectations. Should anyone believe a movie about an assassin will offer us anything fundamentally original or mind boggling? No. Hell, even the John Wick trilogy gets weaker as it progresses.
Let’s take this A- movie for what it is. Winstead showing us that Theron (“The Old Guard’) and Chastain (“Ava”) are OK as killers. Garner in “Peppermint” gives Winstead a better run for her money. Blunt in “The Edge of Tomorrow” better still.
Winstead is plausible physically as a trigger puller and martial arts master. Her action scenes in “Kate” are executed adroitly and confidently, lacking what I call “girl lag.” You know, that slight femininity that makes it look like a punch is thrown with hesitation or accompanied by circumspection. There also might be a pinch of awkwardness. It’s like the difference between a guy’s handwriting – generally angular, sloppy, careless, unreadable – and a gal’s – generally flowing, clean, loopy, soft.
By now, Del is, like, where the fuck is the summary, Mladen?
Here’s the summary. Kate is an orphan befriended and trained by Varrick (Woody Harrelson) to kill people. Bad people, which, of course, makes Kate a White Hat assassin. Now an adult with a string of wins, Kate is tasked with a hit. The target is the second-in-command of a powerful Yakuza clan. The top lieutenant is also the brother of clan boss Kijima (played by Jun Kunimura, who I also adore because he’s in a goodly number of Godzilla films, including “Shin Godzilla”).
The hit is a success, sort of. Kate is ordered to take out Sato (Koji Nishiyama), though he’s with his young daughter. Ani (portrayed by Miku Patricia Martineau) takes her father’s blood spray in the face as the first bullet nudges aside neck and the second perforates both temples. Some months later, Kate is slipped Polonium 204. It’s a revenge killing ordered by who? No, not Putin. As her body deteriorates – there’s no antidote for acute radiation poisoning – Kate regains her humanity while first exploiting and then protecting a precocious Ani as she hunts for her killer. Don’t listen to Del when he tells you that Martineau steals the show. Watch Winstead in the public toilet of some Tokyo back alley act human, though her skin is bruising, has sores, and hemorrhages. In fact, always pay attention to Winstead’s face. It expresses as much as the words she speaks. Love it to no end.
The car chase in the film is hokey but the rest of the action blisters. Knife fights. Gun fights. Pure hand-to-hand. Lots of blood. Lot of cussing. Everything I want in an action thriller that has no purpose other than to entertain and make you say every now and then, “No way” or “Damn, girl” while cringing with delight from the protruding blade pushed through a nasal septum.
The “Kate” score fits with the bright lights of a big Japanese city. The soundtrack is a bunch of wonderful Japanese technopopelectronicapunk.
Well done, Mary Elizabeth, if I may call you by your first name. Just make sure you don’t end up pigeon-holed as an action star. Your acting chops are Amy Adams-like. Do drama. Do cerebral sci-fi. Go experimental. It’s only a matter of time before the gold statuette is in your hands.
Easy there, Tiger. You keep swingin’ that libido like a baseball bat and you’re gonna put somebody’s eye out.
Mladen is talking about two separate issues – “Kate,” the movie, and Mary Elizabeth Winstead, the actor. OK, let’s do that.
Up first: Winstead.
I’ve seen several of her movies but her role in “Kate” is the first to leave an impression. I wonder why? I’ve decided it’s because she’s superb as an assassin. She has a watchability I can’t wrap my head around. I mean, she’s undeniably beautiful, with a uniquely expressive face. But there’s more to it than mere beauty. She brings a swagger to the role that other actors – Jessica Chastain and Jennifer Garner, for instance – fail to muster. She’s a much better Ripley than Katherine Waterston and that’s what we’re talking about, isn’t it? Ellen Ripley. “Aliens.” The “Get away from her you bitch!” role that set the bar for badassery among lady action figures. When the tank tops come out and the hair comes off, you know the shell casings are about to fly.
Winstead approaches her character with an understated and off-kilter confidence that was hobbled by a lame script, which always seemed to veer into the predictable just when you thought the movie was about to show you something new. That’s a shame because I think with better material Winstead could have gone toe to toe with Sigourney Weaver. Instead, we are given only moments of brilliance.
Another fine performance is delivered by – yes, Mladen – Miku Patricia Martineau, who excels as snotty Ani, a girl for whom life is nothing more than a sad simulation of her online reality, given meaning only through selfies, drama and Kate’s Terminator-like determination to complete her mission of vengeance. Ani is only a small planet orbiting Kate’s star but she revels in the baking heat when Kate goes nova.
One more comment about the acting and I’ll move along. Woody Harrelson plays Kate’s mentor and overseer, a kind of Charlie to her Angel, and I can’t decide if I hated him or the role. Harrelson played it with a loopy fatigue you see from Bruce Willis these days, but the role itself seemed poorly defined and a little too muted for its eventual octane rating.
That can be our segue into Mladen’s other second issue – the movie itself.
Is it entertaining? Absolutely. Is it original. Absolutely not. In fact, it seemed Frankensteined from just about every other recent action movie. What you get is a gumbo of clichés and soupy dialogue.
Not only that but all the characters in this rogues gallery are unlikeable, including Kate herself, the loveable assassin with a conscience. It was like watching high-decibel anti-vaxxers die of COVID-19. There’s a karmic justice at work here, yes, but the human being in you cringes as you see that metaphysical balancing go about its ugly business.
And the movie is a non-stop bloodbath. Between Kate’s wrecking ball tour of Tokyo’s Yakuza underworld to the toll on her body taken by the polonium 204, you will either avert your eyes or stop the movie and excuse yourself to the restroom.
If you’re a fan of action movies and especially those that feature a female protagonist, you’ll love “Kate.” It’s a brawl all right, with lots of firepower, graphic violence and gore. Beware of the treadworn plot and thin broth of dialogue.
I grade it a low B.
Mladen Rudman is a former journalist and technical writer. Del Stone Jr. is a former journalist and author.