It's a very difficult decision to devote an entire day to reviewing these new DVD titles that reflect upon the events of September 11, 2001. I consider this a prelude to the many images that Americans will be revisiting as we approach the one year anniversary of the attacks. Some of you may not be interested in revisiting the perpetual images that these DVDs provide. For those of you that feel this way, I urge you not to read any more of this review as the images and stories are all here. For others, these DVDs are very well done, presenting an enormous amount of educational value to those who are interested in watching them. New York Firefighters The Brotherhood of 9/11 Studio: Artisan/Discovery Channel Year: 2002 Rated: NR Film Length: 50 minutes Aspect Ratio: Full Frame (1.33:1) This is perhaps the most personal story of them all, for its the story Bronx Rescue Squad #3, one of five rescue squads spread out over the boroughs of NYC. They are specialists whose trucks carry no ladders nor water. Their job is to be at every fire and assist in search and rescue. Rescue Squad #3 is a house forever changed, for it was the morning of 9/11 that 8 men left for Manhattan to take the call and never returned. A plexiglass tribute memorial stands on the inside wall of that firehouse. Narrated by Stockard Channing, This is a personal look at the men who remain at the Bronx firehouse, recounting stories of their brothers who fell that day. There are many powerful and emotional moments here including the group of firemen who 6 months after 9/11, finally sit around a television and watch home videos of that day. This is an emotional moment as we watch the horror in the faces of those that could not have been there that day, but yet suddenly see it all happening through these home movies. Later, as these men sit around a firehouse table, they recount some fond memories of each of their fallen brothers. Through this documentary you learn about how firemen become a family unit. These are men that eat and sleep together. The firehouse is their second home. Losing a member of that firehouse is as serious as losing a member of their own family. Intertwined with the stories of these firemen are interviews with those who were inside the towers shortly before their collapse, and have their own stories about the firemen who came to rescue them. One very emotional story comes from a survivor who on the way down his stairwell escape came upon a firefighter who was on his way up to rescue those still inside. This survivor recalls the exhaustion and sweat of the fireman's face. The fireman asked for help. This survivor gladly took part of his gear and helped this firefighter up to the 30th floor. It was there that he heard calls from the radio about two firefighters that had collapsed from massive chest pains. This survivor recalls his final moments before escaping the building, saying goodbye to the firefighters he would never see again. The documentary briefly turns to footage of the recovery effort as brother looked for his own brother amongst the smoldering twisted steel remains of the towers. We even see interviews of the men of ladder 6 -- the only firefighters to emerge from the rubble alive. These men recall those moments when they were trapped in the only stairwell remaining as huge chunks of concrete and steel fell around them. Perhaps the most emotional moments of this entire documentary come as the families of the fallen heroes of Rescue 3 come back to the firehouse to clean out the lockers of their husband/father/brother. If there are any happy moments here, perhaps it is those that come from the members of the community who reached out and came to the firehouse to provide its members with food and support. It was for that only brief moment I had a smile on my face. How is the transfer? While presented in a 1.33:1 version, my Panasonic DVD player somehow presented this DVD as a widescreen presentation with no unusual ratio deformities. Upon capturing screenshots with POWER DVD software, the images were presented in their full frame ratio. Very odd. In any event, this DVD is filled with raw video footage that is very clear. The digitally mastered transfer is excellent all around. The stereo presentation has that very crisp, high-end video sound to it. There is excellent stereo separation in the front channels and sound is so very detailed that you can hear individual gasps from the background crowd as these events unfolded. Let me also sternly warn that because this is an Artisan release, you can expect absolutely no subtitles here. Again, I get on my soapbox and berate the studio for ignoring the hearing impaired community with DVD releases such as this. Final Thoughts An extremely personal and highly emotional look at the bond between firefighters and the way a rescue company was forever changed by the events of 9/11. These are the brave individuals that continue to define what heroism and humanity is all about. Highly recommended! Release Date: Now World Trade Center Anatomy of the Collapse Studio: Artisan/TLC Year: 2002 Rated: NR Film Length: 52 minutes Aspect Ratio: Full Frame (1.33:1) "Don't trust the truss" Opened in 1970, the World Trade Center was bigger than anything anyone had seen before it. Standing at 1719 feet high in the air, it was a piece of architecture that was built to withstand just about anything conceivable. So why then were so many people unable to escape the attack of 9/11 and why was the collapse of the Twin Towers inevitable? This documentary takes a look at those questions and provides answers in the process. We are taken to a NJ scrap yard three miles away where within the heaps of twisted metal that are about to be broken down and recycled, clues can be found. We meet the men who conceived and built the Twin Towers. Meet Leslie E. Robertson whose ultimate responsibility was securing the strength and safety of the towers. As Leslie sits in his office and recalls the events of that fateful day, he is saddened that the circumstances of 9/11 were outside of what was considered in the building design. We learn about the reasons and struggles over the building of the World Trade Center. We are shown original photos of plans and models that depict a huge open plaza that would carry more office space than the city of Cincinnati. We also learn of the problems concerning the design of the elevator shafts and how that problem was eventually resolved. There were also concerns about wind and the problems concerning the dynamics of the motion of the building. The World Trade Center was built with a unique tube structure with meshed steel that surrounded its exterior. This caused the building to withstand the harshest wind gusts. There is some terrific video footage of the building being built as well as archived interviews and photos of the building's design. We then move on to the terrorist attacks on the building itself. Computer graphic footage takes us through the first terrorist attack in February 1993, where in a parking garage beneath the complex a bomb exploded. Six people were killed and 1,042 were injured in what was at that time the biggest terrorist attack on American soil. Now eight years later, there are some startling shots of the airplanes hitting the twin towers. These are shots I have never seen before. The 157 foot wingspan of these 767 jets were enough to devastate the inner core of the building, blocking all elevator and stairwell passage on the floors above. We talk to an elevator operator who was on duty that day who tells a horrific story of how the elevator cables snapped and the cars came racing down with people inside. This documentary further explores through computer graphics how the steel framing was warped by the fire's intense heat, burning away the mineral fibers of fire proofing that surrounded each beam. We see how the strong, but light steel trusses were affected by the extreme, being the first part of the structure to collapse. How is the transfer? While presented in a 1.33:1 version, my Panasonic DVD player somehow presented this DVD as a widescreen presentation with no unusual ratio deformities. Upon capturing screenshots with POWER DVD software, the images were presented in their full frame ratio. Very odd. The overall video quality is excellent. Though most of the Trade Center attacks are blurred with added animation, we see some amazing pictures of the two planes flying into the structure. While the transfer is as good as expected, the raw video footage is only as good as the conditions it was filmed under. The stereo track is very clear, providing crisp and detailed audio. I again bring up the fact there are no subtitles available on this DVD, something which Artisan is greatly guilty of ignoring. Final Thoughts An excellent compliment to the many 9/11 documentaries available as it concentrates less on the emotional impact and more on the structural impact of the two towers. There are certainly some definitive answers provided here as to why the towers quickly collapsed shortly after the attacks. Highly recommended! Release Date: Now Operation Enduring Freedom: America Fights Back Studio: Artisan Year: 2002 Rated: NR Film Length: 65 minutes Aspect Ratio: Full Frame (1.33:1) On September 11, 2001, the United States declared war on terrorism and the search for Osam bin Laden began. Operation Enduring Freedom is a gung-ho look at the continuing war effort in Afghanistan. It's a look at the battles from Mazar-e Sharif to Kandahar to Tora Bora to Operation Anaconda. Beginning with a speech by Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, the video doesn't cease to remind us about the heroics of this war effort and how proud we are to be Americans. The documentary begins with a brief recap of the events of 9/11, and President George Bush's address to the nation. So why is America hated by these Islamic groups? That question is explored through footage of the Arab-Israeli conflict of the 60s, followed by the Afghan war in 1979 where the United States fell victim to the religious fanaticism these wars released. The 1990 Gulf War ended with anti-American sentiments from which came the al-Qaida's determination to strike back at America. The documentary explores the terrorist attacks against Americans including the 1983 attack on U.S. Marine barracks, followed by the 1988 bombing of Pan Am flight 103. Then there's the World Trade Center attack in 1993. All these attacks were aimed at the removal of the U.S. political and military presence in Saudi Arabia - Islam's holy land. Throughout all the terrorism, America failed to heed the warnings. And who are these architects of global war against America? They were none other than the al-Qaida, led by Osam Bin Laden, one of 25 sons of a Saudi billionaire. Osama was welcomed by the Taliban regime who imposed a brutal tyranny over Afghanistan. Bin Laden established al-Queda, an organization that recruited terrorists who were dispatched to other countries to unleash terrorism -- all with the promise that their death would bring them a greater after life. Through previously classified battle footage we watch for the first time as the United States launches air and ground attacks. We watch the surrender of the Taliban and the search for those that remain unaccounted for. Finally, this DVD looks at the war effort at home -- including Homeland Security, the anthrax scares in the Postal Service, the shoe bombing incident and the realization of John Walker Lindh, a Taliban fighter from northern California. How is the transfer? This full-frame 1.33:1 transfer did not change its full-frame ratio, as did similar documentaries. While the transfer is as good as expected, the raw video footage is only as good as the conditions it was filmed under. The stereo sound is very clear across the front channels, providing distinct audio clarity to everything happening on screen. As a bonus, an interesting photo gallery is included. Artisan again has released a DVD with no subtitles. Final Thoughts Anyone interested in the history of our conflicts with terrorists and our present situation in Afghanistan should take great interest in this DVD. Though it plays a little too highly upon the American spirit rather than sticking to the facts, it is nice to see that the soldiers who have sacrificed their lives to fight terrorism have been honored through this documentary. Recommended! Release Date: Now Coming Friday 8/30: The Grandaddy of all 9/11 documentaries... the CBS 9/11 Edition from Paramount. Look for that review elsewhere on this forum.