Rebirth American Spirit

The Rebirth of the American Spirit

The critically acclaimed documentary, Rebirth, was shown in the Wilson Hall Auditorium last Wednesday, September 22.

The documentary chronicles five lives that were directly affected by the September 11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center. The viewing coincided with Constitution Day, a day which is intended for Americans to honor their freedom and celebrate the signing of the Constitution.

Rebirth forces its viewers to reflect back to those dark days in 2001, and remember the source of strength that pushed our country forward throughout those trying times – each other.

Dr. Thomas Pearson, Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs, said that the documentary summed up the spirit of the country post 9/11. “[Rebirth] shows the entire American experience during this time. The link between Constitution Day and the film is that they both illuminate we are the people and we are Americans.”

The documentary lapses from 20022009. The five lives that are chronicled in those years give a glimpse to how suddenly life changed on that horrible day, and how challenging it was to persevere.

Rebirth was directed by filmmaker Jim Whitaker, who also acted as a producer.

“The documentary was very emotional. It shows the human journey and discovery process of these individuals who represent the American people, which makes it an extraordinary film,” Pearson said. On 9/11, Pearson watched the media coverage in the auditorium.

Rebirth was first shown at the Sundance Film Festival in February 2011. (The film was also shown on Showtime for the first time on September 11.) During the production of the film, a nonprofit organization started up, rightfully named Project Rebirth. Its goal is to help promote and recognize the necessary job function of first responders at disaster sites.

In time, with the proceeds from the documentary and donations to Project Rebirth, a new center will be built to help first responders and victims of disasters deal with grief issues after a traumatic experience.

Only a few months after 9/11, the filmmakers of Rebirth set up 13 time lapsed cameras to monitor the site 24/7. This, according to Project Rebirth’s website, is the most extensive and creative use of time-lapse in history.

“The way the cameras catch the process of rebuilding the WTC site is incredible,” Dr. Joseph Patten, Chair of the Department of Political Science and Sociology at the University said. “The film’s producers received permission for these cameras to take still shots of the site every hour of every day since they were set up.”

In doing this, the viewer can directly relate the building of the Freedom Towers to that of the lives of the five people who are documented.

“This is such a powerful film,” Patten said after the viewing. “Its story shows the resiliency of the American people, and that we, as a country, are stronger than we think.”

Corey Neal, a sophomore, was impressed by how intense the emotion resonated out of the five victims onto the screen.

“I really felt the pain of the people, not only by hearing their story, but also by seeing their anguish,” he said. One particular scene that impacted him was when a sparrow landed on the head of a grieving son who was giving his mother’s eulogy. “To see that bird and think of what it symbolized really brought it home for me,” Neal said.

Neal, who attended the viewing with his classmates, said that he was not sure what to expect out of the documentary, but went into it with curiosity. Within minutes, he was drawn in. “The coverage was so in-depth and personal. I learned how deeply this tragedy affected its victims.”

Dr. Pearson said that in previous years, the University celebrated Constitution Day in several ways, such as students enacting past presidents, but this year’s viewing of Rebirth was especially meaningful. “It is important to show the resiliency of Americans on this 10year anniversary and to appreciate the institutions we have in this country on Constitution Day.”