Not before the events of September 11, 2001 and, certainly, not after.
Even movies that are clearly and purposely labeled as science fiction that depict the streets of New York deserted by human life and rendered barely recognizable by some sort of cataclysm, have always upset me.
As a child, I really enjoyed the original "Planet of the Apes" and understood that it was sheer fantasy but became unsettled when the Statue of Liberty came into view, toppled and broken.
It's all just felt too possible to me. The events ten years ago proved that to be true.
I recently saw it all again while watching the remake of "The Taking of Pelham 123" on video and experienced the same sick feeling. I rose, dumping poor Buzzy to the ground, and left the room.
New York will always be a popular and iconic backdrop among directors. It may be a thrill for movie-goers in other parts of the country to see fictional disasters befall its landmarks because, for them, it's meaningless on a visual level. It's flat...on a screen.
It's all too dimensional for us.
I don't like to see images of any city in ruins. Cinematographers love to show landmarks like the Golden Gate Bridge ruptured and smoking, cars tumbling into San Francisco Bay or the Eiffel Tower snapped in two. Please stop. It's no longer beyond the scope of reality and, personally, it scares me.
It happened here. It was real. And, once upon a time, it was beyond our wildest dreams.
We have family in Louisiana who worry that the country has forgotten Katrina, no longer interested in the devastation that still affects parts of their state. I think their concern is justified. For the most part, America thinks it's back to how it was down there before the storm. And I worry that, for the rest of the country, 9/11 is becoming a distant memory.
The day it happened, after staring at hours of network coverage and in a state of shock, I made my way to a local grocery store. The other shoppers I encountered were buying milk and bread just as I was but no one was uttering a sound. Putting groceries in carts and waiting on the checkout line in total silence, we were aware that, on some still intangible level, it was a defining moment in all our lives. I, for one, have never been the same.
I'll bet you're not either. Perhaps in a big way like my friend Barbara who lost her brother, Raymond York, a firefighter who, even though he was off that day, hitched a ride downtown on an ambulance and -- in an act of unimaginable bravery -- ran, full tilt, to his death.
Or, maybe it's changed you in a smaller way--you are on edge in crowds, afraid to fly or less trusting of strangers.
My son Tom, a notorious school skipper back then (or, as I prefer to think of it now, an alternate learner), spent many a day knocking around the city. Often in lower Manhattan, he and his friends might have chosen to ride to the observation deck of the WTC to enjoy the incomparable view.
After 9/11, I realized that had his truancy coincided with the evil intent that brought the towers down, I would never have known what happened to him.
That day the rules changed in our household. Knowing that, barring aggressive use of a roll of duct tape, I could not keep him from his adventures, I asked him to "Just tell me if you're going into the city, Tommy." He understood.
So, I will continue to avoid movies that depict horror in familiar streets. I will continue to pray that such a thing never happens again....but I will also worry that if God trusts us to our own free will, we're in trouble.
Please don't trust us God, we're a very unpredictable bunch.