September 9, 2011

Two Mainers get firsthand perspective

Women with ties to Winthrop – a filmmaker and a theater director – are shaken as they witness the tragic events in Manhattan on Sept. 11, 2001.

By Susan McMillan smcmillan@centralmaine.com
Staff Writer

Filmmaker and Winthrop native Darcy Dennett had an unobstructed view of Lower Manhattan, and her footage of the towers burning and collapsing has been featured on HBO and formed the basis of her short film, "Morning: September 11th."

THE SEPTEMBER 11 MEMORIAL AT A GLANCE

Work continues on the National September 11 Memorial And Museum at the site of the World Trade Center in New York.

The memorial designed by Michael Arad features cascading waterfalls in the footprints of the towers surrounded by bronze parapets bearing the names of the victims of the terrorist attacks.

The memorial opens to family members today and to the general public Monday.

A total of 2,983 names will be listed on the memorial. That figures includes: 2,753 people in New York (including three later deaths from respiratory disease linked to illnesses caused by the towers' collapse; 40 people in Pennsylvania; 184 people at the Pentagon; and six people who died in the 1983 World Trade Center truck bombing.

The museum housing thousands of artifacts from the attacks will open in 2012.

Two office buildings at the World Trade Center site are also rising rapidly. The building formerly known as the Freedom Tower, now called 1 World Trade Center, is up to 80 stories on the northwest corner of the site. A second building to the east is up to 48 stories. Both are scheduled to open in 2013.

-- The Associated Press 

Back to "Remembering 9/11"  special section

Theater director Christine Henry, on the other hand, had to rely on her parents in Winthrop for details of the unfolding terrorist attacks as she struggled to get home to Manhattan from JFK International Airport.

Henry, 39, a 1990 graduate of Winthrop High School, was flying back after a monthlong road trip to California. She was on one of the last planes to land in New York before airports were shut down.

A news bulletin about the first plane striking the north tower played on televisions on Henry's JetBlue flight as it descended. They touched down right around the time that the second plane hit the south tower, and the third crashed into the Pentagon as Henry retrieved her bags.

But there were no TVs in the airport, so Henry had no idea what was happening until she learned the airport bus to Manhattan was shut down.

Henry didn't have a cellphone, so she went to a pay phone and immediately tried calling her parents, friends who worked at the World Trade Center and anyone she knew in Queens, where the airport is located.

Henry recalls that in the confusion of the morning, people thought airports might be targets, and she was terrified. But now she can laugh at a "very New York" interaction she had with a police officer.

"This police officer's like, 'Ma'am, you need to get out of the airport.' It must have been 11 o'clock, 12 o'clock," Henry said. "I said, 'Sir, I'm happy to leave the airport if you can tell me where the (expletive) I'm supposed to go.' He said, 'Listen, you're alive. Tomorrow you're going to realize that a bunch of your friends are dead. Go get on the bus.' It kind of shook me out of it."

Along with a few other airline passengers, Henry made her way to the Kew Gardens neighborhood of Queens, where they encountered a man who said he had not gone to his job that day at the World Trade Center. He invited them to stay overnight at his apartment.

Between countless phone calls that afternoon and evening, Henry finally saw the footage of the attacks that everyone else had been watching for hours.

She finally made it home the next day, walking from the train station to her apartment because she was scared to ride the subway.

"I get in and it's deserted," she said. "It's deserted and it smells like burning."

Through it all her parents, Arthur Henry Jr. and Laura Henry of Winthrop, were calm and incredibly supportive, but she couldn't sleep for five days.

She finally relaxed when a counselor at a free clinic gave her a sleeping pill and pointed out that most of the people at the World Trade Center survived. Other things also helped Henry gain perspective.

"I went up to the South Bronx. What those kids were living with, it was daily whether or not they were going to live or die when they walked home," she said. "That clicked for me, too."

For Dennett, it was her craft that helped her process what she had seen.

"I am a filmmaker, and filming can help you make sense of what's going on and can be an emotional shield from what's going on," she said.

On that morning she was on Staten Island. She had a camera with her because she was on her way to a shoot in Manhattan. But instead she found herself near a rocky section of Staten Island's shore, where dozens of people had parked and were standing with their car doors open, watching the skyline and listening to the news on the radio.

(Continued on page 2)

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