On April 28, Universal is set to release "United 93," a full-length feature film about the events surrounding the fateful flight crashed by passengers in a field in Pennsylvania on Sept. 11, 2001. Previews in Los Angeles and New York have already drawn intense scrutiny and emotional reaction. Time reported that audience members in Hollywood shouted "Too soon!" as the trailer was screened; a New York theater actually pulled the trailer after audience complaints.
The preview itself is straightforward. The first minute or so consists of typical flight commuting talk as passengers board flight 93 -- "unfortunately, it looks like it's going to be about a 30 minute delay," "we're currently number one for departure," etc. Cut to air traffic controllers viewing the two aircraft plowing into the World Trade Center towers. Back aboard flight 93, pilots are informed of the terrorist attacks. Suddenly, an Arab man rips open his shirt to reveal a red tool-belt; the passengers are stunned, terrified.
They begin to organize. "We have to do it now, because we know what happens if we just sit here and do nothing," one man tells his family over an Airfone. As the passengers gather to plan their final act of heroism, the screen informs us, "On the day we faced fear … We also found courage."
Is it too soon? It may be too late. Since Sept. 11, the press has buried all photos and video of the horrific attacks. Five years later, the War on Terror is at low ebb, with the latest Gallup poll showing Americans are more worried about health care than about terrorism. Only 39 percent of self-labeled independents consider terrorism a major worry, along with 47 percent of Democrats and 52 percent of Republicans. It is no wonder that President Bush's support base for the War on Terror has declined dramatically over the last few years -- Americans, encouraged by the media's silence, are simply complacent about terrorism.
We can't have it both ways. If terrorism is a major worry, we ought to confront the problem. If it isn't, there's no harm in reminding Americans that the threat still exists, that proof of the seriousness of the threat can be found in a giant crater in the center of New York City, as well as a large hole in a Pennsylvania field and a newly-restored section of the Pentagon.