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9/11: A Year After / WHO WE ARE NOW

Sherry Lansing

September 11, 2002

Sherry Lansing, 57, chairwoman of Paramount Pictures' Motion Picture Group, is one of Hollywood's highest-ranking female executives. Lansing, a former teacher, model and actress, is married to Oscar-winning director William Friedkin ("The French Connection").

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"It's a day I will never forget. The only comparison I can think of is the Kennedy assassination. I was just about to get up when my husband woke me. He said, 'America is being attacked!' I can still see him with this look of shock on his face. The television went on and it never went off. I felt as if it couldn't possibly be happening. The second plane came and we saw that in real time. There was a surreal quality to it. I stayed glued to the television with my family the whole day. The studio was closed. Nobody left the house.

There was a period after the event when I felt fear; it was a fear of going to a basketball game, or going to concerts, or going into crowds. We put up security at the studio. It was just this kind of unease and wondering what's next, what's going to happen, that I remember, and then it passed.

What is remarkable to me is our adaptability. The first week after the attack, security at the studio would look in the trunk of your car, ask for your ID, put a mirror under your car and other things. It would be a reminder of the threat we were all under. But now, you open your trunk and show them your badge and you don't think twice about it. I am aware of the security, but I have gone back to my life as before.

There was something that happened in the weeks, or perhaps months, afterward that has stayed with me. For a while, everybody had their priorities in order. Everybody knew what was important. People became kinder or gentler in our business. We became like a small town. There were no big events, only small dinner parties. We learned that intimacy and human contact are what's really important, being with your loved ones, your kids, not being superficial. I have to say, that was so wonderful. People were so vulnerable. That has stayed with me, that desire to keep my priorities in order.

The other thing I found in myself was a surge of patriotism--a very emotional kind of patriotic feeling. We obviously put flags out at our house after Sept. 11. Everyone did. But our flags are still there. I was so proud to be an American. When I think about those people on that plane, what those men and women did, the bravery of the people, the bravery of the firemen and the policemen, I am in awe of those people. They were truly heroic."

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As told to Robert W. Welkos

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