DOC NYC 2020: 9-11 Kids

President George W. Bush participates in a reading demonstration the morning of Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2001, at Emma E. Booker Elementary School in Sarasota, Fla. Photo by Eric Draper, Courtesy of the George W. Bush Presidential Library.

9-11 Kids explores both race and class in profiling the lives of the children sitting in class when President George W. Bush learned of 9/11.

Everyone remembers where they were on the morning of September 11th.  For one group of people, the morning is particularly memorable.  This is because then-President George W. Bush was visiting Emma E. Booker Elementary School.

All of us have seen the photo where Bush’s chief of staff, Andy Card, whispers in his ear.  Card informed the president, “A second plane has hit the second tower. America is under attack.”  America would never be the same.

But what happened to those students?  This is the gist of filmmaker Elizabeth St. Philip’s documentary.  She catches up with the students and faculty who were in the classroom.  Did the students understand the monumental impact of their visit?  Through interviews, the answer can be yes or no.  However, parents fully realized the importance of the president coming to town.  Almost twenty years later, it is hard to believe it but the children are now in their twenties.

“He mentally left the room,” Sandra Kay Daniels said of the moment after Card walked up to Bush.

The mood in the room just changed.  Even watching the clip, I still get chills thinking about the morning.  However, for those at the school, the gravity of the situation would change when President Bush made an address.

We get an introduction to the economics of Sarasota.  The Newtown Estates neighborhood is vastly different from the wealthiest neighborhoods.  Sarasota itself, according to the criminal lawyer interviewed in the film, is still very segregated.  White residents are less likely to get arrested or pulled over than the city’s Black residents.  There is more police activity within Newtown Estates than the rest of the city!  Audiences need the economics lesson because it plays a role in what happened to the students.

The film doesn’t really get going until almost twenty minutes in with regards to profiling the students.  But that being said, I cannot help but feel sad after watching the film.  Not only because of 9/11 but because this nation is failing its Black and Brown citizens.

How many of these students are living the American Dream?  This is a really good question.  Some have turned to the military while others have not fared particularly well.  One cannot help but wonder what this documentary would look like during the summer of 2020.

The 9-11 Kids are more than a simple photo op with a president–they deserve a better America.  What 9-11 Kids does is paint a portrait that shows that America can and should do better.

DIRECTOR:  Elizabeth St. Philip

9-11 Kids screens during DOC NYC 2020 in the Portraits program. Grade: 4/5

Danielle Solzman

Danielle Solzman is native of Louisville, KY, and holds a BA in Public Relations from Northern Kentucky University and a MA in Media Communications from Webster University. She roots for her beloved Kentucky Wildcats, St. Louis Cardinals, Indianapolis Colts, and Boston Celtics. Living less than a mile away from Wrigley Field in Chicago, she is an active reader (sports/entertainment/history/biographies/select fiction) and involved with the Chicago improv scene. She also sees many movies and reviews them. She has previously written for Redbird Rants, Wildcat Blue Nation, and Hidden Remote/Flicksided. From April 2016 through May 2017, her film reviews can be found on Creators.