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Published in Pleasantville Patch
BySarah Studley
September 9, 2011

from_the_ground_up-200hThe sold out screening of a 30-minute-long documentary at the Jacob Burns Film Center (JBFC) evoked thunderous applause and strong emotions from attendees last night.

After the 7:15 p.m. showing, Tara Klein of Pleasantville said she was "still processing" the film.

"It's hard to find the words. It was beautiful, it was inspiring," she said. "I'm just in awe of these women. They are amazing role models."

The five women Klein was referring to were all widowed after their New York City firefighter husbands were lost at Ground Zero on Sept. 11, 2011.

Among them is the film's executive producer and Pleasantville resident Andrea Garbarini, whose husband Lt. Charles "Charley" Garbarini is also commemorated locally with an annual high school basketball game and through the edible garden at Bedford Road School the family funded.

Garbarini, along with Maureen Fanning, Una McHugh, Kate Richardson and Sarah Siller, bravely shared their lives on camera as they were after 9/11 in the documentary.

Prior to the screening, JBFC Executive Director Steve Apkon said to the audience, "I would like to offer that the lasting images will not be just those images of the Twin Towers and the images we were deluged with by the media," but also, "the images of families rebuilding...of people really rising From the Ground Up, which is the name of this film."

"We're very moved to be able to this," he said.

The documentary visited the five women at home, in their communities and even abroad, where they spoke about dealing with their losses and coming together through a support group started by Garbarini.

While each is forced to relive the tragedy day after day, a common theme was bringing something positive out of loss.

Richardson's story unfolded as she led a tour at the Tribute WTC Visitor Center, reminding visitors of the many lives in and around the buildings affected when tragedy struck a decade ago.

McHugh, who said in the film her husband Dennis regulary took their young daughter to story times at local libraries, created a foundation that raised $500,000 for the Dennis P. McHugh Library in Piermont.

Fanning, who has two autistic sons, recalled a conversation with her husband Dennis three weeks prior to 9/11, where they discussed purchasing a group home if they ever won the lottery.

"That conversation became the cornerstone for the foundation," she said, which received approval for two homes.

Siller told the story of her husband Stephen, who parked his car at the entrance to the Battery Tunnel in New York on Sept. 11, 2001, put on his 70 pounds of gear and ran through the tunnel on foot to aid at the towers.

Now, the annual memorial "Tunnel to Towers" race features a run tracing Siller's last footsteps from Brooklyn to Manhattan, and has raised more than $7 million for the Stephen Siller Children's Foundation.

"The run spiraled into something tremendous," Sarah Siller said during a Q&A following the 7:15 p.m. screening yesterday.

Each year, 343 of the firefighters standing at the exit of the tunnel wear banners commemorating each of the FDNY members who died at Ground Zero.

From the Ground Up has been an ongoing effort of Garbarini's and has recently gained traction in film festivals across the country.

Pleasantville Village Trustee Mindy Berard recalled walking around the lake at Nannahagan Park a while back with Garbarini and talking about how to bring the film to life.

"Seeing it all done is just so incredible," said Berard. "These people...I'm in awe of how brave they are."

Going forward, Garbarini and the film's creators, Beth and George Gage of Gage & Gage Productions, hope to continue sharing the documentary at film festivals, as well as possibly use it in bereavement groups and schools.

One audience member asked the women how they react to the bombardment of 9/11 images portrayed in the media each year.

"I don't turn the TV on much," replied Garbarini. "I don't need to see it."

Fanning agreed, but said she isn't as affected these days.

"I can handle it better now," she said.

New York Senator Andrea Stewart-Cousins, who was delayed and unable to speak at the beginning of the screening, said she was glad she was able to instead share her thoughts after watching the film.

"You did it in such an impactful and respectful way," she told Gage and Gage.

Stewart-Cousins commended the women for sharing their stories of building and said their examples show why, "we will indeed always be the greatest nation in the world."

"So my thought to you is thank you," she said.

"From the Ground Up" will air on PBS tonight at 9:30 p.m. and Monday, Sept. 12 at 12:30 a.m.; WLIW Channel 21 Saturday, Sept. 10 at 9:30 p.m. and the Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN) on Sunday, Sept. 11 at 10:15 p.m. and You can pre-order a copy of the DVD or make a donation at the film's website.

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