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When Disaster Opens Our Eyes

October 25, 2010

I picked up a movie during the summer at a local Blockbuster with my sister. I remember looking at the “Top 20 Most Recent and Viewed Rentals.” Normally, I hate chick flicks, but I was drawn to “Remember Me.” It wasn’t to drool over Robert Pattison like most girls do when watching “Twilight,” but instead, to see him act as someone other than a pasty, white, sparkling vampire. My sister and I usually don’t agree on the movies we want to watch, but I knew she liked chick flicks, so she hurriedly agreed.

I read the synopsis on the back, which described the movie as:

“A romantic drama set in New York City during the summer of 2001, where Tyler, a rebellious young man, meets Ally through a twist of fate. Her spirit helps him heal after a family tragedy, though soon the circumstances that brought them together threaten to tear them apart.”

I remember wondering why this movie was set so long ago, but I just shrugged it off thinking it was to give the movie a different scene from the new releases.

In the movie, Tyler as Robert Pattison, has a bad relationship with his successful father, who seemed only interested in his business. With the help of Ally, Tyler comes to realize that his anger was a result of blindness. Blindness to the fact of how much his father really cared for his kids, but was just too stubborn to show it.

Near the end of the movie, Tyler decides to visit his father at work and apologize for his own ignorance that caused the family divide. Tyler’s dad isn’t in his office at the time, so Tyler decides to wait until his father comes. The camera shows Tyler standing near the windows of his office and zooms out to show the towering building of where Tyler’s father works, with Tyler on the highest floor, looking down into the city streets.

The scene changes to a different setting with Tyler’s younger sister sitting in a classroom. The camera changes to the teacher slowly writing the date on the blackboard: September 11th, 2001.

My heart became heavy, my head was pounding, and in that moment, it all hit me: It’s 9/11…this is New York…this is the day terrorists hijacked planes and crashed them into OUR Twin Towers and Pentagon and killed many…Tyler’s dad works in the Twin Towers…Tyler’s going to die. I don’t know how to describe the feeling I had, but it wasn’t a good one. I felt ashamed, maybe even embarrassed, for having forgotten such a devastating and life-changing event. I was asking myself, “How could I be so stupid…so ignorant. Why didn’t I realize when reading the synopsis that “New York City” and “2001” should instantly remind me of 9/11.” My eyes were opened.

Rebecca Solnit in her article, “The Uses of Disaster,” describes the selfish, independent individuals of today’s society. We have the notion of “privatization,” until disaster strikes. Solnit states:

“Disaster makes it clear that our interdependence is not only an inescapable fact but a fact worth celebrating.”

We come together during disaster to help each other out, and we become a “community” of people working together because these events “undo the loneliness of everyday life.” However, after some time, we go back to the daily ritual of this lonely life, and we become the same private individual as before.

“We will never forget” was so powerful and strong before…but what happens when we do? I was reminded from watching a movie that I thought would be a  usual, boring chick flick. This movie instantly became one of my favorites because of the its powerful impact on making me realize how easily we forget until something’s there to remind us.

  1. Taylor Fields permalink
    October 25, 2010 11:30 AM

    I had the same reaction to this movie. I was sitting in the theater, not paying attention to anything, unable to make the connection that the movie was set in 2001. As soon as the teacher wrote on the black board my heart dropped; I didn’t want to watch, I didn’t want to see then end of the movie. It’s a sad but true fact that there are so many horrible events in the world that we can dismiss some so easily in our memory. This is not to say September 11th is forgotten, but each passing year the memorial is less on the television, the month loses its meaning, and the day becomes a tragedy of the past, rather than a poignant celebration of the lives lost.

  2. Jorge Rodriguez-Larrain permalink
    October 25, 2010 4:06 PM

    This was a great article, it is true that we may forget certain details, but the impact that these events have on all of our lives changes people, this change will remain with us. Although I have never seen the movie, the description of it makes it a very appealing movie. Good job with the article.

  3. alifoti permalink
    October 25, 2010 10:49 PM

    In both reading Solnit’s article and in watching “Remember Me”, I–like you–was reminded of the profound transformation I saw in everyone around me after 9/11. In the wake of this horrific tragedy, the immediate interdependence and compassion I saw all around me was uplifting. But what happens to our human nature as we get further and further away from this disaster mode and the memory of great cooperation fades into the back of our minds? How do we keep this spirit alive as we settle back into our lives of “privatization”? How do we keep from forgetting?

  4. crorey permalink
    October 26, 2010 1:27 PM

    I agree with how tragedies can bring us all together. There are of course some situations where some unite while others abandon *cough cough George Bush and hurricane Katrina*, but there is definitely the possibility of bringing others together. 9/11 was an example that epitomizes this fact because basically the whole country came together in support. I think that natural disasters have a lot less camaraderie than man made tragedies such as the 9/11 terrorist attacks. A possible reason for this is that during man made tragedies, people feel like they have some control over what can result, while natrual disasters seem unavoidable. Although both natural and man made tragedies have the possibility to bring people together in support, tend to bring about a greater union between people.

  5. blanchc permalink
    October 26, 2010 11:27 PM

    I also agree that tragedies can bring us all together. However, I believe that natural disasters bring about more unity than man made tragedies. After a man made tragedy, such as 9/11, the community does unite and there is a certain amount of pride and animosity amongst the citizens. However, because a man made tragedy obviously involves people, there is also someone to unite against. Now, I have no problem with citizens uniting against terrorists after 9/11, but the fact is that it wasn’t just terrorists that citizens were uniting against. After 9/11, the Muslim community faced and still does face a lot of discrimination. According to an FBI report, hate crimes committed against Muslims jumped from 28 incidents in 2000 to 481 crimes in 2001. And these were only the reported crimes. And while I do acknowledge that not everyone in the community has the same bigoted reaction after such a tragedy, there does tend to be a certain feeling of anger and hatred in the air after a man made tragedy.

    Natural disasters, however, garnish a much different response from the community. Because there is no one to unite against (you can’t really fight against Mother Nature) the community instead bonds together in support of each other and the clean-up effort. Yes, people can also be angry after natural disaster, but it’s a different, less hateful type of anger. The anger after a natural disaster can’t really have any negative outlets (except possibly at the government for not “doing enough”), and instead the anger is simply more of a “why me?” reaction and doesn’t really get in the way of community unification. In fact, you could argue that this type of questioning actually brings the community together even more, because everyone unites in that they are all feeling this same type of sentiment. Also, this anger, because it is more reflective and questioning than hate filled, doesn’t really bring about violent reactions and tear the community apart, as can happen after a man made tragedy. Therefore, I believe that natural disasters do unite the community as a whole better than man made tragedies.

  6. tanoodle permalink
    October 30, 2010 8:00 PM

    I too watched ‘Remember Me’ this summer and I had the same reaction. I felt that the writers made a great decision ending the movie this way, just at the climax (when Tyler and his father start their reconciliation) because it evoked an emotional response greater than what any of us could have imagined. When I realized that this was September 11, I began to yell and scream at the movie screen. (Thankfully I was home alone watching it.) I was so shocked, so hurt, so entirely dumbfounded, that I couldn’t control my reaction. On the surface, it may have seemed like the audience was reacting to the death of the protagonist; however, I feel that like you, all of us on a deeper level were reacting to the fact that we were unable to recognize an event so profound as September 11. I was yelling at that TV screen because my own lack of knowledge shocked me. How could something so obvious slip right past me? How could something that has shaped my adult life gone unnoticed?

    The question you ask at the end, “but what happens when we do [forget]?” is such a wonderful question because it is so scary. None of us ever want to catch ourselves forgetting that day, and this movie really brought that feeling out. I wish to believe Solnit when she says a disaster is “a peak moment that stays with you while you traverse the plateau of everyday life.” I hope we never become “privatized” enough to forget.

    I stumbled on this link a few months ago called “Picturing the Past 10 Years.” It reminds you of some of the stuff from the past decade that some of us may have forgotten by now. Do you remember when American Idol began? Or when the writer’s strike occurred? It’s also quite funny too!

  7. jungle12 permalink
    November 3, 2010 8:38 PM

    Reading this article makes me realize that Solnit’s theory about community is everywhere. The tragedy of 9/11 has hit my town very hard and it has impacted everyone’s actions. Everyone’s lives changed that day. I remember watching being taken out of school and being told about this tragedy when I was 11 and even at that young age all I wanted to do is help. Even though I believe that people are more interested in their self-interest, people will reach out and try to help others in need. However, now today there are fewer and fewer donations to help out with the rebuilding of the world trade center and families are still coping with the 9/11 effects. Who will help those who are still in need? Do we need another tragedy to get people to help each other out?

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