The Latch

20 Years After 9/11, Spike Lee is Producing a Documentary Celebrating the Resilience of New York

It seems inconceivable that 2021 will mark the 20th anniversary of the horrific 9/11 terrorist attacks, an event that irrevocably changed the world and plunged the city of New York into an era of grief, hope and rebuilding. 

To commemorate the anniversary of the attacks, and to celebrate the resilience of New York, filmmaker Spike Lee is producing a documentary with HBO entitled NYC Epicenters 9/11→ 2021½. 

According to the film’s official logline, the multi-part series will offer an “unprecedented, sweeping portrait of New Yorkers as they rebuild and rebound, from a devastating terrorist attack through the ongoing global pandemic,” and feature both visual imagery and first-hand accounts from citizens.

Most people will remember exactly where they were at the time of the attacks, which claimed the lives of 2,977 people, and how the weeks following the devastating incident signified both a loss of innocence and a testament to the enduring human spirit. 

Lee’s film will explore these stories as he paints a portrait of the residents of New York City who have learned to deal with loss and rebirth in the two decades since the Twin Towers fell. 

The film will also examine how New Yorkers have survived a year of living in the face of the devastating COVID-19 pandemic, of which the city of 8 million became the epicentre in 2020. Since March 2020, the city has recorded over 29,000 COVID deaths, making the pandemic the deadliest disaster by death toll the city has ever seen. 

New York also experienced a heartbreaking intersection of isolation brought on by the city-wide lockdowns with the devastation of violence and destruction on the streets as peaceful Black Lives Matter protests were infiltrated by rioters who vented their frustrations on small businesses and other citizens. 

12 months on, and there is hope on the horizon as the vaccine is rolled out and a new administration governs, however, New York’s bars and restaurants remain operating at just 35% capacity, if they have managed to stay open at all, and the unemployment rate lingers at around 8%. 

However, there can be no doubt that this magnificent city will once again pick itself up and dust itself off, to once again emerge stronger in the wake of a traumatic event — just as it did twenty years ago. In a place where people flock to start over and be anyone they want to be, the city itself will surely be afforded the same opportunity.

Lee himself explained it best in a statement writing, “As a New Yawker who bleeds orange and blue (the colours of New York City), I’m proud to have a ‘Spike Lee Joint’ about how our/my city dealt with being the epicentres of 9/11 and COVID-19.

“With over 200 interviews, we dig deep into what makes NYC the greatest city on this God’s earth and also the diverse citizens who make it so. Over centuries pundits and straight haters have proclaimed NYC was dead and stinkin’, only to be proved wrong.

“You will lose ya money betting against New York, New York. And dat’s da truth, Ruth. Be safe. Peace and love.”

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