Reminders of Sept. 11 still cut deep

September 04, 2003


A couple of weeks ago my husband Michael and I saw the movie "City by

the Sea." The film is very loosely based on a Pulitzer Prize-winning,

true story, "Mark of a Murderer," by Mike McAlary.

In its Hollywood way, the screenplay chronicles the life of

Vincent LaMarca, a New York City police officer whose father was

executed, when Vincent was 10, for the kidnapping death of an infant


in 1956 and whose 24-year-old son Joey was convicted, 40 years later,

for the stabbing death of James Winston, another 24-year-old man.

In the film, LaMarca is one of the homicide detectives who

investigates the murder and as he and his partner stand over the body

of the victim, which washed up on a public beach, the New York City

skyline stands behind them with the World Trade Center towers still


Two years after the deadly destruction of those buildings by

terrorists it's still hard to see an image of that longtime skyline

without drawing a sharp breath, without sensing the shadow of an

unseen dark cloud passing overhead.

If "City by the Sea" first played in theaters, I didn't notice it,

even though two of my favorite actors, Robert De Niro (as Vincent

LaMarca) and Frances McDormand (as Vincent's girlfriend) star in it.

We watched the movie on DVD and, in a value-added commentary on

the disk, we listened to Bryan Singer, the film's director, discuss

making the decision to leave the World Trade Center towers in the

city skyline for the movie's post-Sept. 11 release.

To leave the towers or to remove the towers is not a decision

everyone sees eye to eye on, no matter where the question comes up.

One of my favorite restaurants, Finbar's Italian Kitchen in Seal

Beach, has New York City roots and a mural of a pre-Sept. 11 New York

City skyline on a wall of its cozy patio.

I've heard a few diners wonder aloud about why the towers have not

been painted out of the mural's skyline. The image for them is kind

of a downer, intruding with its sad memories on an otherwise good

evening of good food among good friends.

Others see it as a fitting memorial. The mural is a touchstone

that measures how precious and fragile life is.

For months after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks the

reader-board sign alongside the California Bank and Trust on

Goldenwest Street also served as a touchstone for me.

Right after the attacks, big, black letters went up that said,

"Our prayers are with the victims of our nation's tragedy." Then on

the first anniversary of the national tragedy the words "Never

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