Syracuse University Magazine


Laura Beachy ’12 (left) does a television interview outside the Flight 93 Memorial Chapel established by the late Father Al Mascherino, who is featured in her documentary.

Alumni film explores aftermath of 9/11 crash in rural Pennsylvania

Laura Beachy ’12 will never forget being in her sixth-grade English class on September 11, 2001, when United Airlines Flight 93 crashed in a field in Stonycreek Township, only 15 miles away from her school. The terrorist attack forever changed Somerset County, Pennsylvania, and the lives of many residents, having an effect on the area that endures today. “I think 9/11 was just so full of fear and confusion that it took quite a while to truly process what happened and how my tiny middle-of-nowhere town became a place the entire world knew about,” says Beachy, a Newhouse School alumna. “9/11 put us on the map.”

Like many people, Beachy still carries a strong emotional and physical attachment to the tragedy. Beachy’s sense of obligation to share how Somerset residents personally memorialized the event led her on a three-year pursuit to create the documentary We Were Quiet Once. The film features three witnesses of the plane crash, and explores the theme of what happens when your life becomes defined by a tragedy. “I wish I could have helped somehow, but I couldn’t,” auto salvage worker Terry Butler says in the film. “I just stood here and watched it unfold.” As a Somerset County native, Beachy says she gained special access to Butler, volunteer firefighter Rick Flick, and Catholic Father Al Mascherino, and built strong relationships with them through the filming. For Beachy, one of the most unforgettable experiences of working on the film came when Father Al called one morning and told her he was dying. “They were a part of me and shaped a part of who I am today,” says Beachy, public relations coordinator at Rodale Inc.

In directing the film, Beachy turned to two former Newhouse television, radio, film program classmates for assistance—Cory Sage ’12, who served as director of photography, and Ryan Balton ’11, post-production supervisor and co-editor. “The film is not just a recounting of what happened on 9/11, because that story has been told every way possible,” says Balton, who works at ESPN. “It is more a discussion of how people deal with the grief that comes with a traumatic event like this. How did these people deal with that?”

Balton believes the documentary carries a bigger message, too—one that touches on people’s patriotism and reactions on that day. It’s been an interesting journey to put the film together, he says. “We were editing for one month straight to hit the moment at the end. It feels so rewarding when I sit back and watch it. I have seen it millions of times, but it is still interesting to me.”

Beachy screened an early version of the film at Newhouse last year and says positive feedback made her confident about the project. They completed the film in May and planned to release it to independent film festivals, universities, museums, and a local television station in Pennsylvania. They will also share it with nonprofit organizations for fund-raising events. “It’s taken two-and-a-half years to hone a film that I am willing to show,” Beachy says. “That’s two-and-a-half years of growth, two-and-a-half years of equal parts inspiration and frustration. But to be honest, I wouldn’t have it any other way.”     —Jingnan Li

beachySage_flight93.jpgLaura Beachy ’12 and Corey Sage ’12 work on the documentary at the Flight 93 crash site, now a national memorial.