As a fire service chaplain and critical incident stress management provider, I worked with FDNY at Ground Zero, starting four days after 9/11. Rotating on night, evening and day shifts, I wandered along the edges of the WTC debris field and nearby side streets to check in with resting firefighters. I met an FDNY captain that lost nine "brothers," an FDNY lieutenant that lost his firefighter son-in-law. One FDNY member said: "We all lost somebody in 'The Pile.'" One conversation stands out. Seeing the small cross on my lapel and asking for a blessing, a lone firefighter operating a pumper vented for at least 15 minutes. "Do you realize how many Little League coaches we've lost, how many kids in this city lost their coaches, mentors and neighbors, how many husbands, fathers, sons, brothers, uncles and cousins we've lost?" That's the point of the film: the human side of such a great loss, beyond and beneath all the heroism hype.
Anthony LaPaglia brilliantly portrays an FDNY fire captain for what he was at heart: an ordinary guy; thus, the film's name: "The Guys." The eight eulogies LaPaglia's character had to deliver at eight funerals on behalf of his fire company were much more about ordinary people that served and died in extraordinary circumstances: "guys" that went to church picnics, to their kids' ball games, that fixed just about anything, that could (or couldn't) cook, etc. LaPaglia's portrayal captured the essence of so many firefighters: paramilitary, loyal, straightfoward, problem solvers, action (versus reflection) oriented people that love "The Job;" people generally not given to wordsmithing or "being in touch with their feelings." Yet, given the right encouragement (as from Weaver's character), we discover the deeper nuances and sensitivities of their humanity. They are indeed very ordinary people called upon to perform extraordinary deeds.
It's a subtle film that invites the viewer to ponder the immense human loss we suffered on 9/11/01 -- the loss of some three thousand souls, each with a life story worth telling beyond and beneath whatever they may have done for a living. Even more, the film invites us to reflect upon our own reactions and responses to 9/11 as "ordinary people affected by extraordinary circumstances," seeking to find a "new normal" after a day that will live forever, with other days like it, in infamy.
My thanks to all that had a part in the writing and making of this little gem of a film.
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