Stream On: When the unthinkable happens, at the WTC and Chernobyl

By on September 16, 2021

Back in the day, for the unthinkable to occur required the agency of nature—earthquakes, hurricanes, tornadoes, volcanoes. But we’re in the age of technology and can now put nature to shame.


[IMDb.com] [trailer]
[Amazon.com; Prime Video; streaming] 2019 [TVMA]

John O’Neill, the chief of the New York FBI’s Counterterrorism Center, is convinced that the United States has been targeted for attack by al-Qaeda but is faced with hostility from other federal agencies in ‘The Looming Tower.’ (Hulu)

Twenty years ago, four commercial airliners traveling from Boston, Newark and the District of Columbia were hijacked mid-flight by 19 al-Qaeda terrorists, and used essentially as bombs against three targets: the World Trade Center in Manhattan, which was leveled, the Pentagon in Virginia, which was damaged, and presumably either the Capitol or White House in Washington, D.C. (this plane was crashed by the hostages in Pennsylvania).

One of the consequences of this deadliest terror attack in human history was the creation of the Department of Homeland Security, under which information from dozens of federal agencies would be coördinated, to avoid a repetition of the insular behavior that left us open to attack.

The Looming Tower opens on a 9/11 inquiry in 2004. Ali Soufan (Tahar Rahim), a Lebanese-American FBI agent, is testifying, and recalling 1998, when he was recruited by John O’Neill (Jeff Daniels, Gettysburg), for O’Neill’s I-49 Counterterrorism Center in New Yoek.

I-49 had two observers in Alec Station (CIA), headed by Martin Schmidt (Peter Sarsgaard, The Killing), which was dedicated to tracking Osama Bin Laden (UBL), but because of an apparent personal conflict between Schmidt and O’Neill, they are frozen out and kept from Alec Station’s UBL intelligence.

The action switches from the private lives of O’Neill and Soufan (who is an executive producer of The Looming Tower) to the interoffice politics of the two centers, and to the American Embassy in Naibobi, Kenya, which is bombed by terrorists simultaneously with the embassy in Tanzania.

We meet veteran FBI agent Robert Chesney (Mike Camp, Boardwalk Empire), who has a personal stake in the Kenya bombing, and dedicates himself to the case with brilliant interrogation skills; the National Coordinator for Security, Infrastructure Protection, and Counterterrorism Richard Clarke (Michael Stuhlbarg, A Serious Man), who advocates for O’Neill; CIA Director George Tenet (Alec Baldwin, 30 Rock); and soon, Mohamed Atta, Khalid al-Mihdhar and Nawaf al-Hazmi, future 9/11 hijackers. A child survivor of the CIA-initiated cruise-missile strikes on an al-Qaeda training camp walks to the next camp to sign up and participates in the bombing of the U.S.S. Cole.

For a ten-episode miniseries, The Looming Tower is epic in scope with great performances by the principals, an understandable story and a gripping climax. (The Nairobi and U.S.S. Cole bombings are depicted; the 9/11 attacks happen offscreen in the last episode.) It’s won many awards and I highly receommend it.


[IMDb.com] [trailer]
[Amazon.com; Prime Video; streaming] 2019 [TVMA]

When Deputy Council of Ministers Boris Shcherbina and Deputy Director of the Kurchatov Institute Valery Legasov arrive in Pripyat, Ukraine, they see that the core of the Chernobyl nuclear reactor has exploded, and radiation is already entering the atmosphere. (HBO)

“What is the cost of lies?

“it’s not that we’ll mistake them for the truth—the real danger is that if we hear enough lies, then we no longer recognize the truth at all.

“…Well, I’ve given you everything I know. They’ll deny it, of course. They always do. I know you’ll try your best.”

Valery Legasov (Jared Harris, Mad Men), the deputy director of the Kurchatov Institute in the USSR, puts down the mic and collects the tape he has just recorded with several others, wrapping them in newspaper and leaving them in a dead drop outside of his Moscow apartment, evading a KGB watcher. He returns to his apartment, puts out four bowls of food for his cat, and hangs himself.

Two years before, in 1986, the worst nuclear disaster in history occurred in the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic. It threatened to involve the whole European continent. It happened during a routine safety test, and was exascerbated by hubris and a lack of communication among several soviet agencies.

The story begins with an explosion at the power plant during a safety test. Deputy Chief Engineer Anatoly Dyatlov, when told that the actual nuclear core has exploded, is in denial. Across town, Lyudmilla Ignatenko, wife of fireman Vasily Ignatenko, sees the glow in the night, and a beam of blue light rising into the sky.

They receive a phone call; Vasily must report. Lyudmilla is concerned; Vasily is dismissive, but when his fire department shows up on the scene, he becomes anxious at the spectacle and phenomena they’re experiencing: the firemen can taste metal and those who get nearest are receiving skin burns without coming into contact with anything.

In Vasily’s neighborhood, the locals watch from a pedestrian bridge, while their children delight from the apparent snowflakes piling up at their feet. “It is beautiful,” one says. The series postscript informs us that they all died.

Valery Legasov is recruited by Deputy Minister Boris Shcherbina to help find a way out of the impossible situation and they face an uphill battle against the secretive Soviet state.

Chernobyl is an unforgettable display of the unprecedented horrors that can be cooked up by humans—and the incredible heroism that those same humans can show in their face.

Next time, From the writers of Seinfeld, Curb Your Enthusiasm and … Dilbert?

(Pete Hummers is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to earn fees by linking Amazon.com and affiliate sites. This adds nothing to Amazon’s prices.)

Click here for more Stream On: What to watch on TV columns by Pete Hummers


Barnhill Building Group has been selected as the Construction Manager @ Risk by the College of the Albemarle and is seeking to pre-qualify construction trade contractors to submit bids for the furnishing labor, materials, equipment, and tools for the new College of The Albemarle – Allied Health Sciences Simulation Lab (COA Health Sciences) located in Elizabeth City, NC. Please note: Only subcontractors who have been prequalified by Barnhill will be able to submit a Bid.

The project consists of the new construction of a 38,000-sf, 2-story expansion to the existing Owens Health Sciences Center and will house classrooms, labs, and a simulation lab. The site is just over just over 4.5 acres and is located on an active campus. This new construction will be a steel structure with a brick and metal panel veneer, curtainwall, and storefront glazing with a PVC roof membrane.

Principal trade and specialty contractors are solicited for the following Bid Packages:

BP0100: General Trades

BP0105: Final Cleaning

BP0390: Turnkey Concrete

BP0400: Turnkey Masonry

BP0500: Structural Steel & Misc. Steel

BP0740: Roofing

BP0750: Metal Panels

BP0790: Caulking / Caulking

BP0800: Turnkey Doors/Frames/Hardware

BP0840: Glass & Glazing

BP0925: Drywall

BP0960: Resilient Flooring

BP0980: Acoustical Ceilings

BP0990: Painting & Wallcovering

BP1005: Toilet Specialties / Accessories / Division 10

BP1010: Signage

BP1098: Demountable Partitions

BP1230: Finish Carpentry and Casework

BP1250: Window Treatment

BP1400: Elevators

BP2100: Fire Protection

BP2200: Plumbing

BP2300: HVAC

BP2600: Turnkey Electrical

BP3100: Turnkey Sitework

BP3290: Landscaping

Packages may be added and/or deleted at the discretion of the Construction Manager. Historically underutilized business firms are encouraged to complete participation submittals.

HUB/MWBE OUTREACH MEETING: Barnhill Building Group will be conducting a HUB/MWBE Informational Session. You are encouraged to attend the following session to learn more about project participation opportunities available to you. These seminars will help to: Learn about project and scope; Inform and train Minority/HUB contractors in preparation for bidding this project; Assist in registration on the State of North Carolina Vendor link; Stimulate opportunities for Networking with other firms. Location and time TBD. Please visit our planroom at https://app.buildingconnected.com/public/54da832ce3edb5050017438b for more information.

Interested contractors should submit their completed prequalification submittals, by July 22, 2024, to Meredith Terrell at mterrell@barnhillcontracting.com or hardcopies can be mailed to Barnhill Contracting Company PO Box 31765 Raleigh, NC 27622 (4325 Pleasant Valley Road, NC 27612).


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