The release of the film United 93 has awakened painful memories for those who lost loved ones on September 11, 2001, as well as those who were not personally impacted, but felt a profound sense of devastation and loss. The scars are broad and deep.
The PR industry collectively had an early identification with flight 93 when it was revealed that Mark Bingham, CEO of The Bingham Group in San Francisco, was a passenger.
In the early days of the aftermath, details of Bingham's phone calls to his mother were widely reported, and the story of how the passengers endeavored to thwart the hijackers' plans began to circulate.
Bingham, whose career began at Alexander Communications, was a popular Bay Area figure, as a practitioner and passionate rugby player. Immediately after the crash, tributes to his character poured into PRWeek. Today, there are Web sites dedicated to his memory and a leadership fund established in his name.
It is painful to even think of watching a film in which Bingham and others are depicted, but the buzz about how the film honors the memories of those who endured that horrific ordeal is reassuring. At its essence, it is a compelling story that has the potential to elevate humanity above the selfish fray. It is right that this story is being told, even if not everyone can face it right now.
The sensitivity of those promoting the film is genuine and speaks to what's changed in the more than five years since 9/11. Many agencies and companies were deeply and selflessly involved in efforts to help victims and families. But examples of poor PR judgment also emerged, which were universally and rightly denounced.
Such gaffes are virtually unthinkable now. The corporate response to disasters like Hurricane Katrina demonstrates the sense of responsibility and community that has become even more ingrained. In a small way, that progress honors the memories of Bingham and the others who lost their lives that day.