Screening of film “Blues by the Beach”
Joint Program with World Trade Center Survivors Network (WTCSN)
On May 1, 2003 at around 1:00 A.M., two suicide bombers approached Mike’s Place, a popular Tel Aviv pub, to do the unthinkable. And one of them did. Jack Baxter, an American film maker who had been shooting a film about Mike’s Place to show how life goes on in Israel amidst the numerous terrorist attacks at the time got caught up in the bombing; he was wounded and lay in hospital healing whilst his crew continued to film the “real time” aftermath of the attack.
Last Thursday evening, Jack Baxter’s film “Blues by the Beach” was screened at a Survivors Circle meeting. Several members of the World Trade Center Survivors Network attended the screening as well.
This was my seventh viewing of the film. I have been asked, “how can you sit through the film over and over again?”. Doesn’t it make you relive the trauma again and bring you back to a very painful place? I am asked this because I was there that night. At around 12:40 A.M., I had sung onstage at the blues jam run by Yanai Weiss, a father of three for whom the blues jam was a hobby. He always stood to my left when I sang at the jam.
To my right on this particular night was a young keyboard player with a hat. As this was a jam session, there were rotations amongst the players and singers. Yanai Weiss offered his guitar to a guest guitarist, and Ran Baron, the young keyboard player, switched with another player. Yanai and Ran went out for some fresh air. I stayed inside close to the stage waiting to perform again. It was a festive night with a lot of people and pleasant “vibes”. Within seconds, two suicide bombers (carrying British passports) approached the pub. Avi Taviv, the security guard, would not let them in. One bomber exploded his device - and Yanai Weiss and Ran Baron, who had just accompanied me onstage, were killed.
I will not go into all the intricacies of the film or my personal issues following the attack. I am grateful to Dr. David Grand for post-trauma treatment.
During the week of the attack, after having read in the papers that Ran Baron’s brother longed to hear what his brother had been doing that fateful night before the attack (he wondered if Ran had enjoyed himself), I felt a great responsibility to visit the family and tell them exactly what Ran had played for his last performance. Ran Baron’s mother, such a brave, dignified woman had said: “If Ran had told me that he was leaving for Mike’s Place to play music, I would have said, “have a good time”. I will never forget this, because this is the gist of living with terror. We all live, go on about our lives, we cannot foresee when something will happen. I also felt a tremendous need to share with Yanai Weiss’ children about their father’s last performance, and talk to Orna his wife and share her grief. Needless to say, for a very long time despite the quick physical rebuilding of Mike’s Place, the shock, post traumatic symptoms and difficult feelings one experiences after such an event were present everywhere in Israel and particularly amongst the Tel Aviv music community.
I returned to live in New York about 2.5 years ago. I was fortunate to receive information about the Survivors Circle, which has provided another place to connect with those who have experienced what I have - some members were wounded physically and do not recall their “event” and often are in continuous physical pain and/or undergoing medical treatment. Those of us who were not wounded physically, carry with us many horrendous and gruesome sights of a civilian being thrown into a fierce battlefield.
I am grateful to be able to share and hear others’ stories and somehow continue to find healing whilst contributing to the healing of others.
At last week’s meeting, following the screening of the film, several interesting points came up: A World Trade Center survivor, Tom, mentioned that his memories are with him 24 hours a day. He goes down to Ground Zero, guiding tourists, explaining what happened. This is his way of coping, of upholding the memory of those who are no longer around to tell their story. It’s about love, it’s about respect. Yes, it is about respect - a concept so small in our crazy world of Reality TV and vulgar advertising. Another World Trade Center survivor, Richard, was touched by Barry Gilbert’s song from the film, “Time Will Change Everything” and quoted a lyric: “Forgive me if I live, but I won’t forget you”. Richard felt that this lyric said it all. It was pointed out that on Israel Memorial Day, the entire country comes to a standstill for a one minute sounding of a siren to commemorate those who perished during Israel’s wars and at the hands of terrorists. It was suggested that New York City adapt the same sort of commemoration on September 11.
Coming back to why I go to see Blues by the Beach (apart from supporting Jack and Fran Baxter), it is because the film is a portrayal of what transpired that night. It is a tribute to those we lost - and in some strange way, those of us who survived the bombing of Mike’s Place all feel fortunate to have this testimony. So many others do not have the same testimony of their attack. Here we have live footage of the beautiful and charismatic Dominique Hess - it is our final tribute to her. We see footage of Ran Baron’s comedy troupe, we hear Yanai Weiss’ beautiful music. We all owe those who perished so much for contributing whatever they did during their short lives - we owe it to them to see their photos again to hear their names being read. It is all we have and “Blues by the Beach” enables us to get close to them again and tell them how badly they are missed, how sorry we are that this occurred. We pay tribute to them, every time we see the film.
True - going back to the trauma brings it up again, the nightmares, etc. But that is not why I watch “Blues by the Beach”. Showing my respect to those who perished and lost limbs is the reason. Fate has made me part of their history, and they are a part of mine.
I do not wish to dwell in the pain of loss. But I must remember, and I feel that I must honor.