From the first moment the film came on the screen, the audience seemed to be gripped with tension. A feeling of tightness took hold in the back of my throat, and a heaviness set in on my chest, making it difficult to breathe. I sat there, stunned, my entire being overwhelmed by the impact of the emotions I was experiencing. The film hooked me right in, and it never let go. Even after the ending credits had rolled, and almost everyone had already left, I remained in my seat, amazed. Never before had a film so completely taken me in. It was stunning. Absolutely stunning.
As most of us remember the events that were portrayed in the film, I needn't give a scene by scene breakdown of the story. There are three things; moments really, that I want to share. The first was the audience. I noticed as the theater began to fill up, that most of the people coming to see the film were older. There were no children or teenagers present, only a handful of college types or twenty somethings, and a few more thirty-somethings. The rest of the audience appeared to be 40 and up. A "mature" audience, if you will. The second thing was the reaction of the audience to one scene. The scene takes place in New York. Three people are in an airport tower, trying to make a visual contact of one of the missing airliners. They spot it, and a second later watch in horror as the plane smashes into the second tower of the World Trade Center. At that moment, the theater went completely silent. No one spoke, moved, or even breathed. All had been stunned by the impact of the moment. Several agonizing seconds went by; then very slowly conversations between audience members in hushed tones could be heard beginning again. It was a moment felt and shared by all.
The third thing, or moment was the ending. The final scene had just ended, and the credits had not yet began to roll. Again, the entire room went still. No one spoke or moved for several seconds. Then slowly, almost hesitantly, a lone audience member began to clap. A few others joined in, but the applause only lasted a few seconds, and then died out. As the audience began to leave, very few spoke, and those who did, used very hushed tones. I sat transfixed in my seat as I watched the credits. I couldn't move. It was as if I felt it would have been irreverent to not acknowledge all that had been involved in the making of the film. That I would insult the memory of those who had lost their lives on 9/11, if I didn't read every single name passing by on the screen. It wasn't until the screen was blank, and the lights began to come up that I was willing to leave. After a few more minutes of stunned silence, I was finally able to breathe easy and release the emotions that had gripped me so tightly during the film. Then slowly but surely, I felt the healing begin.
We may never know exactly what happened on flight 93, but that is not the point of this film. United 93 is a stunning portrait of heroism, faith, and love. It is an honest and heartfelt tribute to those who lost their lives on September 11, 2001. For those who are ready, this film can be a balm to your wounded souls if you let it. For those who aren't, wait until you are. In time, we all will heal; but we will never forget.