Friday, September 12, 2008

The 9/11 Hotel

Seven years after 9/11, this powerful documentary brings a fresh angle on the terrorist attack. It reveals the extraordinary stories of the people trapped in the 22-storey Marriott World Trade Center Hotel, which nestled beneath the twin towers. Up until now, these stories of luck, sadness, bravery and heroism have rarely been reported; this impressive program more than compensates.

The Marriot was one of New York's busiest hotels. At 8.45am on 11 September 2001, the hotel was at full capacity, with more than 1,000 people staying in its 825 rooms. While guests were finishing their breakfasts, working out in the gym or relaxing in the luxury pool, the hotel's tranquil environment was shattered by the roar of jet engines and the horror of falling and burning debris.

Initially it wasn't clear to hotel guests exactly what had happened. Some, unable to see the full extent of the carnage way above the hotel, assumed it was minor incident and that the emergency services would soon have things under control. In fact one American lawyer was so busy, preparing for an impending trial, that he stayed in his room.

By the time the second plane hit the South Tower at 9.03am, many hotel guests had managed to escape, but as the fires continued to burn out of control and the towers came crashing down, some guests and staff became trapped. Miraculously, 14 survived.

This documentary meets some of the survivors. They include a British family on holiday; a hotel receptionist and part-time actress whose actions would later turn her into an American hero, and the lawyer who ignored the commotion and his fire-fighter rescuer.

The program builds well, using archive footage and interviews with the survivors to build a harrowing picture of what it was like in the Marriot during 9/11. And it also reveals the part that a previous terrorist attack had to play in this extraordinary story.

Channel 4 UK. Five part YouTube playlist.

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