[First published in the October 2006 issue of commentarymagazine.com, reprinted with permission].
From patriotic poetry to equestrian monuments, most of the instruments that once elevated war and national tragedy into the realm of collective experience have lost their power to stir us. There is no contemporary counterpart to the Civil War’s “Battle Hymn of the Republic” or Norman Rockwell’s mass-produced prints of the “Four Freedoms” from World War II. A song like “Over There,” to which America marched briskly in 1917, is as remote to contemporary sensibilities as the Bayeux Tapestry. The only artistic medium that now seems capable of informing the national mind about the shape and meaning of events is film.
It was therefore to be expected that, after a decent interval, Hollywood would address itself to the great national trauma of September 11, 2001. And so at last it has done. In movies, this has turned out to be the year of 9/11, with productions ranging from the big-budget United 93 and World Trade Center to works made for television to numerous documentaries, including one, On Native Soil, about the 9/11 Commission created by Congress to investigate and report on the history and events of that day.
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