Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Out of the Clear Blue Sky

Tonight I saw the 9/11 documentary, Out of the Clear Blue Sky.

In the twelve years since the tragic terrorist attacks there have been countless news magazines, documentaries and even a few feature films about that horrific day. And just when you think there couldn't possibly be a new story to tell about it, one emerges. That was the case with this film.

There were over 900 Canton Fitzgerald employees who reported to work at the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001; 658 didn't survive.

But CEO Howard Lutnick did, and after a tearful interview with Connie Chung, became a sympathetic figurehead in the midst of the chaos.

But so quickly they turn.

Because most of their departments were completely wiped out that day (except for I.T.; they were on a fishing trip), Canton Fitzgerald couldn't turn out the amount of work needed to pay the salaries of the missing. Lutnick pledged to donate 25% of the company profits to the victims' families, as well as 10 years of covered healthcare instead. But that message—which was considerably generous considering what the company was facing—got lost in the shuffle and Lutnick (who lost his own brother in the tragedy) was vilified, soon getting death threats.

This film chronicles the rise and fall (and rise again) of Lutnick's image in the years up to now through survivor interviews, commentary from victims' families and news footage.

It's understood that he had a ruthless reputation on Wall Street before the terrorist attack and one wonders if some just held a grudge after the fact, as if it were some sort of karmic payback. In another sense, his raw grief in the weeks and months following the attacks seemed painfully real. And how can you be angry with someone who has to save an international company while mourning two thirds of his employees and his own sibling?

Though those wounds will never heal, the film does imply that a sense of community has emerged in the Canton Fitzgerald family as a result of Lutnick's efforts to help victims' families, and maybe, just maybe, the ordeal made him a better man.


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