America Rebuilds: A Year at Ground Zero
PBS Premiere: September 10, 2002
America Rebuilds: A Year at Ground Zero offers a sensitive, comprehensive portrait of the aftermath of the attack on New York's World Trade Center and the beginning of the effort to rebuild the 16 acres of lower Manhattan devastated on 9/11/2001.
The film was made possible through a decision by former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani to grant
the film company complete access to the disaster site and to personnel assigned to its demolition and recovery.
Central to "America Rebuilds" is New York's little known Department of Design and Construction (D.D.C.). Typically, the D.D.C. builds schools and playgrounds. To say that the demolition and stabilization of the World Trade Center site dwarfs the experience of every engineer working on the project, is understatement in the extreme, but there are no other words for it. Seven buildings on the sixteen-acre site were destroyed together with the lives of nearly 3,000 people.
Firemen had no way of searching through the twisted steel debris until the ironworkers arrived, bringing with them the skill and the equipment to cut the steel and move burned out vehicles from the streets, making way for rescue and recovery equipment. Cranes could not enter the massive foundation area or "bathtub" of the Trade Center. They were too heavy. Instead, giant tank-like "grapplers" were used to wrestle massive steel girders from the debris. Sites for the equipment were constantly changing because as debris was removed, a previously stable location often became unstable. Welding torches glowed like small suns against the night sky. Engineers sat in chairs designed for second graders in rooms decorated with child's watercolors as they adjusted and re-adjusted their plans. Their construction office is a commandeered school. Through it all the reverent, solemn recovery of human remains, accompanied by the grieving, ash-covered faces of a spontaneous Fire Department honor guard punctuate the work. The public meetings and political debate about the site's future offer an almost jarring counterpoint to the solemnity of the recovery effort.
Major funding for America Rebuilds: A Year at Ground Zero was provided by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, Coldwell Banker, PBS and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. Executive Producers: Kenneth Mandel and Daniel B. Polin. Producers: Seth Kramer and Daniel A. Miller. On-site World Trade Center recovery and cleanup footage was shot by Justin Schein and Roger Grange.
TIME Magazine said "more coverage that looked forward, like the PBS documentary America Rebuilds" and New York Newsday's Marvin Kitman said it was "the one show I will be watching."