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Students Debut "Historicizing 9/11: New London"

Connecticut College class puts together documentary on local reactions to 2001 terrorist attacks

From college professors to police officers and firefighters, several local residents spoke with students for a class’s collaboration on a 9/11 documentary.

About 30 students in a class tracing the historical roots of the 2001 terrorist attacks cooperated to produce Historicizing 9/11: New London. The class debuted the film on campus on Tuesday evening.

Though the assignment was initially to have each student produce a short video of an interview with a local resident, the class wound up producing a full-length documentary. About a dozen students did the interviews, while a dozen more worked on editing and six completed the production.

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Dr. Jim Downs, who teaches the class, said the project was sponsored by a learning grant from the college’s Holleran Center for Community Action and Public Policy. He said the goal of the assignment was to contribute a local perspective to the historical narrative on 9/11. Copies of the film will be given to the college’s rare books collection as well as the .

“This offers an opportunity to remember the past,” he said. “People who would never be brought into the archive now get the opportunity to be brought into the archive.”

In addition to residents’ recollections of how they found out about the attacks and what their reactions were, the film documents how people remember behaving in the months after 9/11. The narrative also involves discussions on other effects of the attacks, such as the war in Iraq and the death of Osama bin Laden.

Andrew Nathanson, a junior, spoke with Lt. Jeffrey Rheaume of the . Nathanson said students were instructed to speak to someone whom they thought would provide an interesting perspective on the attacks.

“We were pretty much on our own to find our own resources in the community,” said Nathanson.

Dawson Luke, a junior, interviewed Connecticut College’s sailing coach, Jeff Bresnahan, for the project. He said he found out from a friend that Bresnahan’s wife was a flight attendant and was interested in his perspective both from this relationship as well as his activities on the Thames River, which was under increased scrutiny after the attacks due to the Navy base in Groton.

“It was unique,” said Luke of the experience. “It was like nothing I’ve done for any other class.”

Melanie Thibeault, a sophomore, oversaw an editing team which trimmed footage from the interviews and sent it on to the production team. She said some editors found music, photos, and other multimedia for use in the documentary. She said the work was all done outside of regular class time, but that it was a rewarding experience.

“It was well worth it,” she said. “It was hard work, but it wasn’t painful to do.”

Nick Sizer, a senior, worked on the production. He said the goal of the documentary is to have people draw their own conclusions based on the recollections.

“We’re not telling a story that isn’t already in these experiences,” he said.

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