A few days after the World Trade Center was destroyed I heard on the radio that a single bond trading company had lost six hundred employees and needed volunteers to help run a support center for their families.  On Monday, September 17, 2001, I was assigned the task of "greeter"—the first person the relatives of those who had been killed in the attacks met when they arrived at the ballroom of the Plaza Hotel. 

Over and over I came face to face with human beings at the lowest points of their lives.  And in all these encounters—despite unimaginable suffering—each person communicated a single thing:  they never again wanted to see pain inflicted on another human being.  I was left with the powerful impression that the victims' first desire was to keep their profound loss from others.
In this moment before ideology caught up with the event I began to see New York City in a new way—not as a place that embodied power, money, and ambition, but as a vulnerable collection of human beings exposing their truest selves to others.
After the support center disbanded I found other outlets to access this new, true New York.  For the next five years I volunteered at a charity for the terminally ill, cooked a weekly dinner for friends and strangers, and wrote a series of essays on the city post 9/11.  As an essayist rather than a reporter, I was used to coming into people’s lives and asking them intimate questions, and as a natural extension of those essays I began to interview people on camera about their lives on that day, collecting stories that complimented and added dimension to each other regardless of how close a given narrator's connection to the events of  September 11.  It was a day that everyone could vividly return to.  
I met one interviewee at a Brooklyn florist when he gave me advice on some trees I'd found on the street in Chelsea—trees, it turned out, he had once cared for.  I discovered that a retiree who ran a jazz series in the basement of a Brooklyn church had once organized special events for EF Hutton at the World Trade Center.  I met a Muslim woman in a German bar after a friend’s reading, who described the rupture in her life of assimilation beginning on that September day.  And at a party on a lake I went up to a man who was standing alone and asked him if he had a 9/11 story: he had been at the very center of events and never spoken about them before.
To conduct these interviews, a designer and I built a pair of sets that permit the viewer to see the interviewees from multiple angles: A pool of water on top of a table with a mirror submerged in it, and a mirrored corner that reveals the mix of diverse speakers from every side at once—an effort to recreate what you feel as you move through the crowded streets of New York City; amplified, in the finished film, by well-known and newly discovered archival and cinematic footage, which evokes interviewees' internal states, and makes reference to the imagistic bank we all draw from as a cinematic culture.
My goal was to create an atmosphere of openness like the one I found so moving after the attacks, and enable a group of strangers to come close to us and show their truest selves.  Of the thirteen people who are in the film, some were at the center of the destruction of the Twin Towers, others far removed. But they, like all of us, crossed a border on that day between the world we knew and the world we live in now.

Director's Statement