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9/11 documentary filmmaker searching for people he interviewed on day of attacks

The documentary "9/11+20" hopes to shed light on

The documentary "9/11+20" hopes to shed light on how the terror attacks impacted the lives of people who watched the Twin Towers fall from just blocks away. Above, filmmaker Patrick Heaphy interviews Lauren Cherkas, of New Jersey. Photo Credit: LCM247

On Sept. 11, 2001, Patrick Heaphy left his Fifth Avenue office — camera in hand — and started asking shellshocked people on the street one thing: "what happened?"

The responses varied widely, both in emotion and factual detail, but they were all human reactions to a tragedy unfolding before their eyes as the Twin Towers fell.

Now, nearly 18 years later, Heaphy is looking to reconnect with the people he interviewed for “9/11+20,” a documentary film examining how the terror attacks have impacted their lives in the intervening years.

“With any documentary, you don’t necessarily know what you’re going to get until you’re complete,” said Heaphy, the founder and creative director of production company LCM247. “So we’re looking at this going, our idea is to show the resiliency of people who have been impacted by this tragic event and to show how people cope, and how maybe it influenced them on how they view the world and even how they raised their children.”

But Heaphy needs help. Without the names of the 80 people he interviewed as he walked downtown from Fifth Avenue and 21st Street, his team has been sleuthing around the internet and relying on social media in an attempt to find them. So far, they’ve identified five people.

One woman, Lauren Cherkas, of New Jersey, has already met with Heaphy and his crew for a follow-up interview.

“It was strange because I’ve seen her in this footage and it’s like I know her,” Heaphy said. “When we saw each other, we had been communicating a little via phone calls but we hugged each other.”

Finding Cherkas sparked more leads on other people who were near her when she was interviewed, but the progress was isolated to that specific area of the city.

Another woman who was identified, Vered, lives in California now. They have a Skype call lined up and Heaphy hopes to fly out to L.A. to meet her in person within the next few months.

Since the documentary’s debut is tied to the 20th anniversary of the terror attacks in 2021, Heaphy and his crew have about two years to interview as many people as they can and put the film together.

“Imagine trying to get all your friends together; it can take months,” he said. “So, just to find these people, we’re thinking we have enough time to hopefully get in touch with at least half of the folks that we interviewed that day.”

LCM247 partnered with Big Media to distribute the film, which will be presented in October as a work in progress at MIPCOM, an industry gathering held annually in Cannes, France. The viewing will serve to help draw attention to Heaphy's project and lead him to more people he had interviewed. 

Heaphy said he hopes “9/11+20” will show that tragic day through the lens of those who witnessed the terror attacks but were not in immediate danger.

“There’s something about it, I think it’s important historically just because of the way it captured what was happening on the streets,” he said. “Everybody sees the footage of the buildings collapsing, which is horrible. But I feel like we didn’t see as much of the humanity that was occurring on the streets and in the shadows of Ground Zero, you know the people who weren’t necessarily in danger of the buildings collapsing around them, but still everybody’s lives were just turned upside down.

“Not everybody is aware of how that day affected them and maybe now looking back 20 years we can have a better understanding of that.”

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