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Networks attempt to make sense of 9/11 terrorist attacks with an array of specials

Early on Sept. 11, 2001, Americans watching morning news programs were stunned and horrified as the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center in New York unfolded before their eyes. Hard as it is to believe, 10 years have passed since that terr...

Early on Sept. 11, 2001, Americans watching morning news programs were stunned and horrified as the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center in New York unfolded before their eyes. Hard as it is to believe, 10 years have passed since that terrible morning, and television will lead up to the anniversary with programs attempting, again, to make some sense of a day that changed America.

Some programs will look back; others, forward. Heroes are a major theme, and so is rebuilding.

Here is a closer look at three very different specials marking the anniversary, followed by a list of other planned programming and, finally, an early preview of what the broadcast networks and cable news channels plan for the day of Sept. 11.

  • "George W. Bush: The 9/11 Interview," premiered Sunday (repeating at 9 p.m. Saturday) on National Geographic Channel In an interview with filmmaker Peter Schnall taped over two days, the former president recalls his experiences, hour by hour, that day and in the days that followed. Bush is the only person seen on camera, and only his voice is heard -- a selling point in gaining his agreement to participate, Schnall suggests.

    "This film is definitely his 10-year look in the rearview mirror of his life and at an event that without a doubt changed his presidency as it changed our lives as well," Schnall says.

    In a scene screened for TV critics in Los Angeles, Bush explains at length what was going through his mind when he got the word of the attacks while reading to children, a scene that has been much mocked over the years.

    "I asked him what it felt to be the president sitting in front of the world's stage by himself, in front of the kids, and being told " ... that the United States is under attack," Schnall says.

    Although questions weren't provided in advance, "I'm sure he did" know we would ask that.

    In the end, Schnall says, "I think what was most surprising was how personal he is in this film."

      "What Happened? The Story of Sept. 11, 2001," 8 p.m. Thursday on Nickelodeon Linda Ellerbee has been helping children process tough topics since 1991, when Nickelodeon asked her to do a special explaining the first Iraq war. Since then, she has produced more than 100 "Nick News With Linda Ellerbee" specials.

      The new half-hour gives kids too young to remember 9/11 a forum to ask questions and talk about their feelings. Although most children know about the World Trade Center attacks, they are likely to be confused, Ellerbee says.

      "If you remember, when you were a kid, the game of telephone "... that's sort of what happens," Ellerbee says.

      Thanks to the Internet and social media, "They have more information, but not all of it is correct, because by the time it goes through the filters you get as much misinformation, by accident, not by intent, as you do accuracy."

      For example, Ellerbee says:

      "You hear a kid say, 'I heard there were 500 planes that disappeared in the air. I heard the people in the planes were Japanese. I heard Saddam Hussein attacked us.' And the most stunning one, and we heard it more than once, 'I heard 9/11 never happened.'"

      In the special, answers are provided by experts including former CNN anchor Aaron Brown and Bush press secretary Ari Fleischer.

      And even though the questioners are children, the answers are always honest, Ellerbee says:

      "We don't generally say to kids, 'You're just wrong,' but we know (9/11) happened."

        "The Love We Make," 7 p.m. Sept. 10 on Showtime Paul McCartney was in New York City on Sept. 11, 2001, and spent days walking the streets, dropping in at firehouses and eventually joining in the planning of a huge benefit "Concert for New York City" at Madison Square Garden.

        Filmmaker Albert Maysles ("Gimme Shelter," ''Grey Gardens") followed McCartney, filming him in the same cinema verite style Maysles used for "What's Happening! The Beatles in the U.S.A."

        The documentary, by Maysles and Bradley Kaplan, hasn't quite been 10 years in the making, McCartney (via satellite) told TV critics meeting in Los Angeles.

        "Albert took some great footage back then that we never did anything with, and it just seemed like it would be a good opportunity," McCartney says. "So I got in touch with Albert and said, 'Is it still all around? You know, would it make into a film?' And he was very enthusiastic. So I think it was reawakened by the 10th anniversary."

        In New York after the attacks, "The whole mood of the world, the country of America and particularly the city of New York had changed," McCartney says. "There was fear in the air, and I never experienced that, in particular, in New York. So this was where the idea of doing (the concert) came about."

        And during the concert, some of the fear seemed to go away, McCartney recalls.

        "It was a really great feeling," he says. "We actually felt like we were doing a bit of good."

      Other anniversary programs

      • "Freedom Rising With Shepard Smith," 8 p.m. Friday on Fox News Channel. A documentary tracks the building of the 9/11 Memorial and Museum and the ongoing construction of the new World Trade Center through time-lapse photography and stories told by workers on the projects.
      • "Heroes of the 88th Floor," 8 p.m. Sept. 4 on TLC, is "an extraordinary tale of bravery and survival inside the World Trade Center after Flight 11 struck the North Tower," focusing on two men who saved many.
      • "Children of 9/11," 9 p.m. Sept. 5 on NBC, follows 11 children from six families who suffered losses on Sept. 11, as well as "their difficult and inspiring journeys in the years since."
      • "9/11: Day That Changed the World," 7 p.m. Sept. 5 on the Smithsonian Channel, features interviews with Laura Bush, Dick and Lynne Cheney, Rudy Giuliani and others; the special is narrated by Martin Sheen.
      • "Frontline: Top Secret America," 9 p.m. Sept. 6 on PBS, promises "to reveal an unprecedented yet largely invisible legacy of 9/11: the creation of a vast maze of clandestine government and private agencies designed to hunt terrorists and prevent future attacks on the United States."
      • "Footnotes of 9/11," 10 p.m. Sept. 6 on CNN, features interviews with eight people "who went to work on Sept. 11, 2001, and unexpectedly became part of history."
      • "Dr. Sanjay Gupta Reports: Terror in the Dust," 10 p.m. Sept. 7 on CNN, looks at how responders are coping with health effects of the toxic dust and fumes at ground zero.
      • "Nova: Engineering Ground Zero," 8 p.m. Sept. 7 on PBS, looks at rebuilding on the World Trade Center site, capturing "the behind-the-scenes struggle of architects and engineers to make the buildings safe and highly secure (while meeting) the public's expectations of a fitting site for national remembrance."
      • "Beyond Bravery: The Women of 9/11," 10 p.m. Sept. 8 on CNN, profiles female rescue workers.
      • "Dateline," 8 p.m. Sept. 9 on NBC, devotes two hours to the anniversary, in a special anchored by Tom Brokaw.
      • "9/11: In Our Own Words," 7 p.m. Sept. 9 on MSNBC, asks NBC News anchors and correspondents to share memories of reporting live the morning of Sept. 11.
      • "Beyond 9/11: Portraits of Resilience," 10 p.m. Sept. 9 on CNN, is a special produced with Time magazine and HBO that features "untold stories drawn from 40 women and men who led and sacrificed for America," accompanied by portraits by award-winning photographer Marco Grob.
      • "9/11: The Days After," 8 p.m. Sept. 9 on History, promises "an authentic, unflinchingly honest look at what happened after the tragedy (in) a changed city, a changed country, a changed world."
      • "9/11: Timeline of Terror," 9 p.m. Sept. 9, will reconstruct the events of 10 years ago in "real time."
      • "Portraits From Ground Zero," 9 p.m. Sept. 10 on A&E, highlights the work of Andrea Booher, one of the only photojournalists given full 24-hour access to the World Trade Center site in the immediate aftermath. She tracks down and updates the stories of people she photographed then.
      • "Voices From Inside the Towers," 8 p.m. Sept. 10 on History, documents "many harrowing, heartbreaking stories -- some never heard before -- of love and loss on 9/11."
      • "Making the 9/11 Memorial," 7 p.m. Sept. 11 on History, follows the memorial from conception to on-site installation at ground zero.
      • "Twins of the Twin Towers," 8 p.m. Sept. 11 on OWN, tells the story of twins "left twinless" in the attacks. It will be immediately followed by "From the Ground Up" (9:15 p.m.), the stories of five widows of firefighters.
      • "The Concert for New York," 3-9 p.m. Sept. 11 on VH1, repeats the concert from Oct. 20, 2001.

      Live coverage

      On Sunday, Sept. 11, the broadcast networks and cable news channels will offer live coverage of events from ground zero. Here are preliminary plans:

      • NBC News airs "America Remembers" from 7 to 10 a.m., simulcast on MSNBC and streamed live on msnbc.com.
      • CBS News coverage, under the title "9/11: America Remembers," begins at 7 a.m. A special edition of "Face the Nation" follows. At 6 p.m., "60 Minutes" will devote an hour to 9/11 coverage. "9/11: 10 Years Later," an update of the film "9/11" by Jules and Gedeon Naudet and James Hanlon, will air from 7 to 9 p.m. on CBS.
      • ABC News airs a special edition of "Good Morning America" from ground zero from 7 to 10 a.m. A "Primetime" special, "Remembrance and Renewal: 10 Years," is scheduled for 9 p.m.
      • "Fox News Sunday" (7 a.m. on Fox News Channel) will offer live coverage of anniversary events from the World Trade Center site.
      • PBS plans a one-hour special, "America Remembers -- 9/11," followed by a "Great Performances" airing of "The New York Philharmonic 10th Anniversary Concert for 9/11."
      • "102 Minutes That Changed America," beginning at 7:46 a.m., will be simulcast across all A&E networks and to 150 countries.

      Distributed by MCT Information Services

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