Review: “This Is Not About 9/11”


By Dustin Slaughter

I would like to salute
The ashes of American flags
And all the fallen leaves
Filling up shopping bags

Ashes of American Flags, Wilco

The scene: Present Day. A spartan stage with nothing but a swivel chair and a white folding screen with “9/11: Never Forget” painted in mind-numbingly bold black lettering. A 25 year old woman enters, rolling a packed suitcase onto the stage, prepared to give an interview for a video-taped oral history project as part of the unveiling of One World Trade Center.

The 45 minute This is Not About 9/11 then quickly becomes a reflection on American paternalism and its attendant exploitation and propaganda; a daughter’s grief; and most importantly, a raging perseverance borne from all three.

Sarah Van Auken’s practically solo performance takes the audience on an extremely personal journey as the actual daughter of a Cantor Fitzgerald stock trader who lost her father to the attacks in Lower Manhattan. Hers is a tale about so much more than that, though: being manipulated by a news media bent on wringing every last tear out of 9/11 families in service to a grotesque faux-patriotism, while failing to actually listen to what these families have learned from tragedy. As director/producer Ellie Marissa Ruttenberg told me:

Being a close friend of Sarah’s and having had many long talks into the night about this specific subject matter, I know that she’s felt her story hasn’t been told.

It is a performance mixed with rage, incredulity, and strength, as she refuses to pander to the veneer of sentimentality initially forced on her by the faceless, booming voice of the interviewer (played by Bob Stineman), who may be more interested in collecting her grief than in actually listening to what she has to say.

You would be mistaken to think that this production falls into the trap of heavy-handed polemic, however. Thanks to Ruttenberg‘s skillful direction and Van Auken’s writing and performance, This Is Not About 9/11 avoids browbeating the audience, using the spaces in between words to say so much more, and concluding with a coup de grace that will have you in tears not just for this young woman’s loss, but perhaps more importantly, a lesson she desperately wants to impart, one a post-9/11 America refuses to learn.

This Is Not About 9/11 has three more nights (June 23rd, 27th, and 28th) at Aux Performance Space as part of SoLo Festival 2014. Be sure to reserve tickets by contacting, as seating is very limited.

There are 2 comments

  1. Michael Burke

    On 9/11 my brother, Capt Billy Burke, Engine Co.21 gave his life. The “handwringing” and exercises in endless commemoration of grief and loss were designed to distract and actually deny any patriotism, “faux” or otherwise. Carefully designed by Mayor Bloomberg and his underlings, they focused exclusively on grief and loss and ignored the cause of that grief and loss: the attacks. And our duty in response. This is exactly what our vast, billion dollar “national” memorial is all about: dedicated exclusively to grief and loss and our “healing” it denies the attacks. It is not about 9/11. And it includes no American flag. Nor, of course, any physical reminders of the attacks. For the designers of the memorial, for most involved in the annual commemoration process, 9/11 had the wrong victim and the wrong perpetrators. Grief was not used to shield America; grief was used to shield the terrorists and the cultural and political philosophies that crashed that morning with the Towers.


  2. philostahl

    Yes. The commercial media are as corrupt as government. They will sacrifice one or two, but only in order to keep the system as a whole out of danger.


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