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Film / Inside The Twin Towers

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"When the World Trade Center buildings were going up, my dad told me: "When those are finished, we're gonna go up on the top". My dad said: "These buildings will last for a thousand years, they'll be here forever."]]
Al Smith

Inside The Twin Towersnote  is a TV Documentary produced by Discovery Channel and the BBC, detailing minute-by-minute what happened inside the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center during the September 11th Attacks. The film follows multiple WTC workers and rescuers from the first impact at 8:46AM up until the collapse of the North Tower at 10:28AM.

It originally aired for the fifth anniversary of the attacks on September 3, 2006, on both the Discovery Channel and BBC One. The documentary is narrated by Harry Pritchett in the US, Terence Stamp in the UK and Jean Reno in France.

Two versions of the documentary in English can be found online.


Inside The Twin Towers provides examples of:

  • Action Survivor:
    • Hong Zhu, a May Davis worker, leaves the North Tower seconds before its collapse.
    • Ladder 6 Captain Jay Jonas and five of his men survive the collapse of the North Tower. Josephine Harris, the lady they were rescuing at the time of the collapse, also survives.
    • Fuji Bank executive Stanley Praimnath survived the crash of United Airlines Flight 175 into the South Tower. He is later rescued by Brian Clark and both men exit the tower before it collapses.
    • Al Smith, Jan Demczur and four other people escape from a stuck elevator. They all make it out alive.
  • Anyone Can Die: On September 11th 2001, the attacks on the World Trade Center killed around 2,700 people; either workers trapped inside the burning towers or rescuers from the NYPD and the FDNY trying to save them.
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  • Apocalyptic Log: Immediately after Flight 11 crashes into the North Tower, Christine Olender calls the Port Authority to report that smoke is filling up the Windows on the World conference room on the 106th floor and ask for assistance. As the situation rapidly deteriorates, Christine's calls are more frantic and desperate. Eventually, at around 9:40AM, no one makes further calls from Windows on the World.
  • Better to Die than Be Killed: One of the guests at the Windows on the World's conference room realizes that help won't come and jumps out of the building. The narrator notes that more than a hundred people either fell or jumped from the North Tower.
  • Big Labyrinthine Building: As the narrator explains, getting out of the World Trade Center proved to be extremely difficult.
    • While each tower had three stairwells, only one of them actually links the lobby to the top. The other two aren't continuous because of machinery and elevator shafts. This forces people to exit their stairwell on certain floors and cross the building to get to another stairwell. However, because the towers sustained considerable damage following the planes' impacts, some of the doors are jammed shut... if they weren't locked already.
  • Bittersweet Ending: The World Trade Center lies in ruins by the time the documentary ends. While some characters managed to get out of there alive, the vast majority - as well as thousands more - didn't; killed when the planes crashed or when the towers collapsed.
  • Brick Break: Jan Demczur and his group manages to open the doors of their elevator revealing a wall that looks like concrete. Jan bangs on it several times with his foot and realizes that it's made of sheetrock. He then spends a good amount of time digging a hole in the wall thanks to one of his toolsnote , before breaking said-wall. They all escape afterwards.
  • Buried Alive: Captain Jay Jonas, Josephine Harris and thousands more are buried under the rubble of the collapsed Twin Towers.
  • Cluster F-Bomb:
    • One of the Security Operators in the North Tower yells "Shit!" when she notices her talkie-walkie isn't working.
    • In the footage of the attacks, bystanders can be heard screaming "Holy Fuck!", "Holy Shit!" or "Oh my God!" after both plane impacts and both collapses.
  • Covered in Gunge: Some people evacuating the North Tower are covered in soot. Following the collapse of the South Tower, everything is covered in grey dust.
  • Daylight Horror: The 9/11 Attacks happened on a warm sunny Tuesday morning.
  • The Dead Have Names: At the end of the documentary, the narrator gives out the names of the people seen during the re-enactments who died on that day.
  • Dwindling Party: As Brian Clark and his EuroBrokers colleagues head downstairs, they are stopped by a lady heading in the opposite direction to avoid the fire and smoke. This prompts several members of his team to question his decision to head downstairs, suggesting that it may be better to head upstairs. When Brian leaves to rescue somebody, the rest of his group does just that. None survived.
  • Elevator Failure: Zigzagged. When Flight 11 crashed into the North Tower, it completely destroyed all elevator shafts and stairwells in the impact zone, making evacuation from the upper floors impossible. That being said, some of the elevators continued to work after impact in the lower floors of the building; allowing Hong Zhu, Harry Ramos and Victor Wald to get down to the 44th floor and Al Smith's group to escape.
    • The express elevator Al Smith, Jan Demczur, and four others workers are travelling in, abrutly stops as the plane crashes into the North Tower, leaving them trapped inside with smoke filling the cabin.
      • After their escape, a firefighter sends them towards a working elevator but Jan Demczur refuses to board it, fearing that they might get stuck again. Al Smith eventually manages to persuade him to get in, saying he might not make it out in time.
    • Lampshaded by Harry Ramos, as they are trying to find a stairwell.
      Harry Ramos: "I don't trust the elevators."
    • Later, when Harry and his group arrives at the Sky Lobby on the 78th floor, they discover that an explosion ravaged the floor, destroying every elevators.
    • Both Port Authority Security Operators ask people to evacuate the building via the stairwells.
    • Frank De Martini is seen pulling two people out of a burning elevator. He and Pablo Ortiz also discover that the elevator shafts are weakening and at risk of collapse.
  • Emergency Services: Jay Jonas, Captain of Ladder 6.
    • Overall, emergency services are seen throughout the film, both in re-enactments and in the archival footage, rescueing workers trapped inside the burning towers.
    • Brian Clark, aside from working at EuroBrokers, also happens to be a Fire Warden.
  • Fade to Black:
    • When United Airlines Flight 175 crashes into the South Tower, the film abputly cuts to black, as debris fly towards the camera.
    • When the North Tower collapses, one cameraman films the cloud racing towards him, before engulfing him. Everything fades to black because the dust clogs everything.
  • Fog of War: Harry Ramos and Hong Zhu have no idea of what happened outside of the North Tower until Harry asks what's going on to a firefighter on the 44th floor, whereupon they learn that the Pentagon was also hit.
  • Gratuitous Foreign Language: At the end of their interviews, both Hong Zhu and Jan Demczur speak in their native language; respectively Chinese Mandarin and Polish.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: 343 firefighters and 60 police officers were killed by the Twin Towers collapse while they were helping people evacuate.
    • Frank De Martini and Pablo Ortiz both perished when the North Tower collapsed. With the help of their colleague Mak Hannanote , they helped around fifty people to espace before the tower's collapse.
  • If I Do Not Return:
    • Victor Wald makes a call to a woman with the same number as his wife's and gives her a message to pass to his wife: "I'm alright".
    • As she and her coworkers are about to leave their smoke-filled floor, Alayne Gentul tells to her husband on the phone:
      Alayne Gentul: "Tell the boys... Tell the boys I love them. And I love you."
    • Alayne's husband Jack quickly realizes that she might not make it out alive.
      Jack Gentul: "When I hung up the phone, I was horrified. Just horrified. She was saying goodbye. She was saying goodbye. That's how it felt, that's what it was."
  • Irony: After Al Smith and Jan Demczur's group manages to get out of their stuck elevator, a firefighter sends them... to another elevator.
  • Mass "Oh, Crap!": Happens multiple times during the attacks. Most notably when Flight 175 crashes into the South Tower and when both buildings ultimately collapse.
  • Monumental Damage: Both towers of the World Trade Center collapse, trapping thousands of people.
  • Mood Whiplash: The documentary opens with aerial footage of the New York skyline, interrupted by scenes of people arriving for the workday at the World Trade Center. It cuts to two workers having a casual discussion when an explosion is heard and the building violently jolts. American Airlines Flight 11 has just crashed into the North Tower.
  • Outrun the Fireball:
    • Averted. When American Airlines Flight 11 crashes into the North Tower, it produces a fireball that races down the elevator shafts of the building causing an explosion that sweeps two workers waiting to catch an elevator.
    • The collapse of the Twin Towers produced a giant grey cloud of dust and debris that engulfed the southern tip of Manhattan. In the archival footage, people and rescuers can be seen running away as the cloud advances through the streets. Those closer to the disaster zone couldn't outrun it and were coated in dust.
  • Race Against the Clock: After the South Tower's collapse, the firefighters know that their building might come down at any moment and desperately head downstairs as fast as they can.
  • The Radio Dies First: After discovering they are stuck in their smoke-filled room on the 22nd floor, one of the operators issues a Distress Call via her talkie-walkie. She doesn't get any response.
  • Sanity Slippage: Averted. After 9/11, Dianne DeFontes kept on washing and cleaning the pants she wore on the day of the attack. She admits that doing this helped her from completely losing it.
  • Scenery Gorn: Following the collapse of both towers, the southern half of Manhattan is covered in a layer of grey dust. The area where the Twin Towers stood is a hellscape of ruins and dead bodies.
  • Screaming Woman: Several women can be heard screaming in both re-enactments and archival footage, for good reasons.
  • Smooch of Victory: When he is freed by Brian Clark, this is what Stanley Praimnath did; much to Brian's surprise.
    Stanley Praimnath: "I don't know how to thank a man who just saved my life. I reached down, I hugged this man and I gave him a kiss."
    Brian Clark: "And he gave me this great big kiss!"
  • This Is Gonna Suck: Capt. Jay Jonas, when he and his men discovered the scale of the fire at the North Tower.
    Jay Jonas: "Once we turned the corner unto Canal St., what we saw was... was a nightmare. So I was looking at twenty floors on fire which translated into twenty acres of fire and thinking [to] myself how are you gonna deal with this."
  • This Just In!: Said verbatum by a CNN newscaster, breaking the news of the North Tower impact.
    "This just in. You are looking at obviously a very disturbing live shot there. That is the World Trade Center, and we have unconfirmed reports this morning that a plane has crashed into one of the towers of the World Trade Center. Clearly something relatively devastating happening this morning there on the south end of the island of Manhattan."
  • This Means War!: When they recieve word that the Pentagon was also hit by a plane, Hong Zhu asks if it was an accident. The firefighter simply answers: "We're at war".
    Hong Zhu: "Those words were really scary. It was war."
  • Wham Shot: Stanley Praimnath ducking under his desk mere seconds before United Airlines Flight 175 slams into the South Tower.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: While the two Security Operators trapped in the North Tower were seen rescued by firefighters, no mention of whether or not they were able to escape before the building collapsed are made.
  • The Whole World Is Watching: The 9/11 Attacks were broadcasted live on television, not just in the US, but across the globe. As such, the documentary includes a montage of German, Japanese, British and French news reports.