And of course, there’s a Bedford angle.
The public service announcement, “State of Unitedness,” will be aired Friday on CNN and other outlets, a day before the 20th anniversary of the attacks on the World Trade Center in Manhattan and the Pentagon.
The non-profit organization 9/11 Day organized the production and invited Bedford Gold Star parents Alma and Brian Hart to participate. 9/11 Day, founded in 2002, created and organizes the annual Sept. 11 national day of service and remembrance.
As the narrator explains, “Twenty years after 9-11, families, survivors, responders and veterans came together to remind us what really matters.” The message is unity, and the call is simple: “Do a good deed on Sept. 11. Let’s never forget what we are capable of doing together.”
The Harts were the only couple among the participants. Their son, Army Pfc. John D. Hart, was killed in an ambush near Kirkuk, Iraq on Oct. 18, 2004. The U.S. invasion of Iraq was one of the repercussions of the terrorist attacks.
Alma Hart said the message is particularly timely because it follows “everything that went wrong with exiting Afghanistan — and I would not presume to have been able to handle it any better.”
The production took place last week at the Shed, a two-year-old cultural center with a flexible shell on the West Side of Manhattan. Everyone was cleared by Covid testing before entering. Alma Hart said the taping took about 14 hours; each of the Harts has an assigned line that they speak to each other.
But it was far from a tedious day. “There was plenty of time. We spent the day sitting around in little groups trading stories,” Hart said. Among the participants were three New York City firefighters who survived by “crawling out of the rubble — and we got all the details.”
Also part of the group was Tina Hanson, who with her wheelchair was carried by rescuers down 68 flights in the World Trade Center; and survivors of the Pentagon attack. “We were just honored to be asked to participate,” Hart said.
The presentation begins with the panel spread over an open floor, partially illuminated by misty vertical shafts. “That’s the ‘beam-me-up-Scotty’ scene,” Hart laughed, referring to the television program Star Trek. “They filmed us all together for the beginning and then separately,” she recounted; sometimes there were as many as five takes.
The public service announcement is a preview of an hour-long remembrance program by 9/11 Day, Shine A Light, scheduled to air Saturday at 7 p.m. on CNN. The Harts were interviewed about John’s military service for the program, but there’s no guarantee that they will be featured, she said.
Alma Hart traces her family’s connection to the movement to 2004, when they were working with the office of U.S. Sen. Edward Kennedy to establish a foundation for Massachusetts Gold Star families. “A couple of 9-11 widows helped us set up the group,” she said.
One of them was Cindy McGinty, whose husband Mike was killed while working in the North Tower. Hart said McGinty was involved with launching the national day of service on the anniversary of the attacks, “to make the remembrance into something of value.”
“Six years ago she and other 9-11 widows invited me to go with them,” she related. “We spoke with several congressmen.” The idea was to make public money available for groups to apply for public service projects, she said.