Band of Brothers is fast rivalling Homeland as a favourite of all four of us on this blog. It is a masterful series. It taps into every possible emotion that you can feel and it pulls absolutely no punches when trying to display and emphasise the horrors the men and woman fighting in World War II faced.
Band of Brothers sets out to remember those who served in World War II and show us what they had to endure. There is so much for each of us to take from the series, but my own impressions are that the intention was not to glorify war or to paint these men as superhuman.
There is a touching moment (among many) in the extras when Major Dick Winters quotes a passage from a letter he received from Sergeant Mike Ranney, “I cherish the memories of a question my grandson asked me the other day when he said, ‘Grandpa, were you a hero in the war?’ Grandpa said ‘No…but I served in a company of heroes’.”
Part of the blurb for Major Dick Winters’s book, ‘Beyond Band of Brothers’ reads:
“Winner of the Distinguished Service Cross, only he could pen this moving tribute to the human spirit.”
Here are a few quotes from the book from Major Dick Winters which you may agree give some insight to him and which are every bit as true now as they were in the 1940’s.
“It is my earnest hope that these memoirs will assist each of you to find your personal peace and solitude in a turbulent world.”
“So many died so that others could live. No one understands why.”
“I have discovered that it is far easier to find quiet than to find peace. True peace must come from within oneself.”
Band of Brothers started its run on HBO on 9th September 2001, two days before the attacks on 11TH September 2001. After the attacks, HBO sensitively ceased their marketing campaign for Band of Brothers. Reeling and in shock no one really wanted to watch a programme detailing the horrors of war.
Band of Brothers details men who fought against fascism and are remembered for it. On 11th September 2001, the majority of people who died were office workers simply going to work.
In 2005, London was attacked the day after winning the right to host the Olympics in 2012. In 2007, Glasgow airport was attacked. A few days ago my own Government dropped a drone, killing two of its own citizens that it believes were plotting terrorist attacks on the UK.
On the surface of it, it can seem dramatic to say that the world pre and post 9/11 are shockingly different. Yet war seems like a constant backdrop now in a way it did not before. Even though it can be difficult to articulate it seems to me that everything changed on that day. Perhaps this was simply my youth and ignorance in 2001, but I’m not so sure.
September 11 2001, I was but an angsty 14 year old walking around Secondary School wishing it was home time already.
By the time we got into 2001, mobile phones were popular, but most of us had learned the consequences of not turning them off in class. They were mostly used for texting and phoning. The ability to use the internet easily on your phone and have instant news updates would follow in years to come. Therefore most of us sauntered out of school at 3.30pm to travel home, ignorant of the fact that the world had already changed for the worst.
I arrived home shortly after 4pm (11am New York time) to find the house unusually quiet. The TV was on, but there were none of the usual programmes that I complained about having to watch. The TV reports were replaying the horrific image of the Towers falling which were replayed to often that day and since.
“I had just finished my PhD and moved to New York for my first job in August 2001. We lived on the Upper West Side of Manhattan and I was extremely excited about all happening around me without knowing that the world would change forever in a few weeks…
We had a friend visiting us from Turkey that week and I was not teaching on Tuesdays so I stayed home that day. Should I have gone to work, and my job was on Long Island, I would not have been able to come back home that night since all traffic in and out of Manhattan was closed after the attacks.
I remember exactly what I was doing when the first plane crashed into the World Trade Center. I was in the shower, and I heard our visitor loudly saying “Wow, a plane hit the WTC.” And, me, always being a knowing-it-all type said to myself: “’ knew that some plane would hit those buildings one day, those buildings are so tall.’ Of course, I was totally wrong. It was a scenario that, until that day, even Hollywood had not been able to come up… I felt sad, very sad. I didn’t cry though… Maybe because I grew up in a country where bombings and attacks were a fact of life as I was growing up that it hardened me… Or, maybe because I just went totally numb… It was such a strange feeling to know that all was happening just a 15-20 minute cab ride away from us… I cried later in the coming days and weeks as workers kept searching the debris… and there were a few times I found myself singing “God Bless America.”
New Yorkers did not panic in the wake of the attacks, they stayed calm. They were sad, but calm, and tried to understand… And, I think, it was the strength and the resilience the city showed in the face of the attacks that made me fall in love with New York. I went downtown only a month after the attacks. The entire neighborhood still smelled burnt rubber. I will never ever forget that.
I am an immigrant. I came to the US in 1996 for graduate school and stayed. September 11 is the first day in my life that I felt American.”
“It was still early in Seattle, Bellevue actually, a suburb of Seattle. My husband and I were about to get up and get ready for work. The phone rang, it was my husband’s best friend and this is the gist of what I remember from the conversation: “Hey, are you guys up, did you hear?” “No, what.” “Someone crashed into the World Trade Center.” “Oh, okay, I’ll put the news on.” At that point I didn’t think it was that big of a deal. (just between you and me: the friend who delivered the news had a tendency towards drama) For some reason I went downstairs even though we had a TV right there. All I could do was stare at the screen. I may have started off standing but I remember sitting down next to the living room chair (not actually on the chair) and continued to stare at the screen. I saw the video of the first plane hit and the news people watching and talking about possible scenarios. “Some sort of accident,: they guessed. “A lost plane.” Then the second plane hit and the news people gasped. Someone said, “oh, ok.” They stopped speaking, but you could hear them breathing. Then, someone said “ok, this isn’t an accident, possibly…” Someone else “We may be under attack…” No one knew what to say. I ran back upstairs to tell my husband and by the time I got there he already had the TV on. We sort of grabbed each other and held on tight and kept staring at the screen.
I called my office (I was in grad school and doing an internship) to ask if everyone was still coming in to work. The guy who answered the phone seemed a bit confused. I asked him if he’d heard the news. And he still seemed confused and sort of impatiently said, “Yes, as far as I know, everyone is coming in.” So I went in to work. Everything was sort of numb at this point. At work, in the cafeteria, they had a TV set up. I went to get coffee, and saw people crowded around the TV, I didn’t want to see it again, so I went back to my desk. I came back out for a walk later, and some folks were again gathered at the TV. I briefly stood there to see if anything had changed, whether there was any more information. I can’t really describe the feeling in any way that makes sense. There was a lump in my throat and I remember my fingertips being numb. The most excruciating image of all the images looping on the screen was the people waving their arms out of those shattered windows, some of them hanging off the windows, and some diving out of the windows. It was the most horrible thing I’ve ever seen. The refrain of “oh my god, oh my god” kept looping in my head.
I used to live in NYC. My sister, until June 2001, lived in Battery Park City and she would take the subway from WTC every day. Had she still been living there, she would have possibly been under whichever building had the subway station, waiting for a subway, when the planes hit. If you’ve ever lived in Manhattan or even near it, you know that very special mix of anonymity and intimacy all New Yorkers share. We literally climb over each other rushing out of Penn Station every morning, or trying to squeeze into a crowded train; we’re in each other faces all the time. NYers know other NYers intimately, we know to not keep eye contact for too long and how to be hard and streetwise. I thought of those people jumping out of those buildings as my peers riding trains every day… it was just so unfathomable.
Ultimately, the biggest thought in my mind was “Please let the people who did this not be Muslims”. (when Oklahoma City Federal Bldg was bombed, I remember thinking the same thing and the sense of palpable relief when the culprit wasn’t Muslim….Of course, this time there would be no such feeling of relief)
At some point, I must have called my Mom (living in Long Island at the time) and asked if everyone in the family and extended family all over the East Coast was okay.
Later that week, I was still at a loss of what to do. I tried to give blood on Wednesday, there was a line out the door of the donation center, and someone came outside and told us that there really wasn’t a need for blood. They hadn’t gotten any calls. When the blood banks turn you away it usually means there are more casualties than injuries. I listened to radio reports, watched on TV, interviews with the anguished families hanging up flyers in search of their loved ones.
Somehow I got word of the vigil to be held at a church in Seattle. I’m not Christian. But I needed to go. The church was packed, standing room only. The pastor, when she thanked everyone for coming, even joked a bit that she’d never seen the room so full. I can’t call what I did prayer, I just knelt at the pew with my hands clutched tight, listening to the pastor and the sobs from all around. In that church, I felt some peace, some awareness I wasn’t alone. That’s all churches, mosques, can be, I think. Places to feel community. I did feel community that day, like none I’ve ever experienced before or since.
Although the world did go to hell that day, those first few hours and days were actually a bit magical in how unified we all felt. We were all at one that day.”
“I live in New York. The state, not the city. Pre 9-11, I’d been in Manhattan once when my father took me for my tenth birthday. We flew in on a May morning, and on the drive from the airport to the hotel instead of looking at the buildings he was pointing to, I had my nose in a book. My chance to see the scenery later that night was thwarted by fog blocking all views off the Empire State Building rooftop.
Later on though I did get to see the skyline. On an early morning boat tour, my dad and I took several photos on my tiny red camera. There was a project I had to put together for my fourth grade class about New York. Kids made models of Niagara Falls or talked about state parks. I felt like the coolest one in the room showing off my blurred pictures of Rockefeller Center and the Statue of Liberty. I was sharing photos of a place I knew even then that I loved.
Flash forward to my sixth grade science class. I was eleven, rearranging my textbooks and pens on my desk for the fifteenth time before the PA system came to life. The room didn’t go quiet right away, it never did even during announcements. But the principal began speaking and I remember the class being shushed. Whether it was my teacher or another classmate urging us to be quiet I don’t recall. I just remember the room staying quiet afterwards. The whole school just seemed to go quiet.
I remember a friend of mine crying and going home for the day after telling us her brother lived in Manhattan. I remember going home on the bus and then briefly watching the news with my parents at dinner. I honestly don’t remember much else. Except taking those pictures of the skyline that included the Twin Towers when I was ten, and feeling fearful and incredibly sad that night when I went to bed.
Flash forward to spring of 2011. I was a college junior spending a semester in the U.K. When I arrived in Wales and told the young woman touring me around campus that I was from New York, she looked at me with an awestruck expression, asked if living there was “Like Friends“? ‘
I understood her associating my home state with the city. Since my first visit to New York I wanted to be associated with it. Even when that association caused me fear. While preparing to fly home from Wales, and fly alone for the first time in my life, I read on Facebook and saw on the news that Bin Laden had been killed. In spite of what I’d just learned, I went to bed in my dorm that night with the same fearful feeling I’d had ten years prior. I’d received a slew of emails from faculty at my campus at home and abroad, telling me to be cautious and vigilant while traveling. None of which alleviated my stress any.
Regardless though I flew back home safely to the state I’m proud to call home. And have traveled back and forth to the city that looking back, I’m flattered that young woman believed I resided in. Even being a kid in 2001 who is fuzzy on details, I remember flags being raised up and down my street and tribute concerts on TV. I remember the unity and the bravery, though I still recall the pain and that same fearful feeling. Each year on the anniversary it creeps back in as a reminder. Of what was lost that will never be forgotten and will never not be felt.”
14 years is long enough to have seen me leave my teens behind and prepare to hit my thirties. It is simultaneously a long time and not. Perhaps it is because of the continuous on-going conflicts or because we are aware that the world, but America most particularly, still bears the scars from that day and is still losing people because of it. September 11 2001 does not seem that long ago, but it is now a significant date in world history.
Remember those lost and those who lost.