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Faith and Doubt at Ground Zero


Matthew Othus

Staff writer

On Monday, April 16th 2012, Helen Whitney visited Roanoke’s Campus to give a talk about her award-winning documentary, “Faith and Doubt at Ground Zero.”  Helen Whitney is an Emmy award-winning director and producer having produced over ten documentaries in over 30 years. Whitney has also visited the campuses of Yale and Harvard to mark the 10th anniversary of the documentary’s release.

Unlike other directors who looked at the attacks through a political or historical lens, Whitney was given nine months to create a documentary that viewed the 9/11 attacks through a spiritual lens. It only took her seven months to make the documentary for Frontline PBS. The movie is mostly composed of testimonies from atheists, rabbis, ministers, and notable figureheads from New York City.

Whitney touched briefly on the “catastrophic political repercussions” before focusing mostly on the spiritual aftermath of the 9/11 attacks. Pointed with clips from the movie, Whitney pushed and pulled on the emotional strings of the audience members who attended her talk, bringing several to tears with her final clip.

The major theme that Whitney addressed was the emotional and mental states of the citizens of New York City in addition to the newfound doubt in god that was found in the spiritual community. Many citizens pondered if god had gone on vacation for the day to allow such a tragic event to unfold. Whitney said that, “Death was the text and subtext of conversations at the time.”

Whitney stayed on campus for a reception and several campus activities on the following day before continuing on to her next destination.