Walking the red carpet outside midtown Manhattan's famed Ziegfeld Theater Tuesday night, Jack Grandcolas stopped before the television cameras and told his story.
His wife, Lauren, 36, was returning home to California on Sept. 11, 2001, from her grandmother's funeral. She was three months' pregnant with their first child and she was aboard United Flight 93. She called her husband from the plane.
"There's a little problem on the plane," he said she told him. "I'm totally fine. I love you more than anything."
In what was undoubtedly the most somber premiere New York City has witnessed, "United 93" opened the Tribeca Film Festival Tuesday night. Actors who performed in the 90-minute movie and family members of those aboard the flight -- which crashed into a field outside Shanksville, Pa., when its passengers foiled the terrorist hijackers -- walked the same red carpet before the 7:30 p.m. screening.Robert DeNiro, who co-founded the festival in 2002 with the express purpose of helping to rebuild lower Manhattan, said it would have been strange to open the two-week event with any other film.
"It's an outstanding venue for opening night," said Gordon Felt of upstate Remsen, who lost his brother, Edward Felt, 41, of Matawan, N.J. "It will bring international interest to this movie."
The United Flight 93 National Memorial in Pennsylvania will receive 10 percent of box office revenue from the first three days of the movie's North American release. The film opens in most theaters Friday.
After the showing at the Ziegfeld, Catherine and David Miller of Chico, Calif., who lost their daughter, Nicole Miller, 21, said they watched the film until violence began to erupt. But they also believed it was very important for audiences to see this movie.
"We don't want them to ever forget what happened," said Catherine Miller. "How courageous and brave they were."
Doris Gronlund of Sag Harbor, who lost her daughter, Linda Gronlund, 46, on the flight, said the family members have become close and were advised about the film.
"It's just been done so well, how all 40 of them are portrayed," she said. "We have such confidence in the filmmakers."
At Loews Theatres Lincoln Square, at Broadway and West 68th Street, another screening was held Tuesday night for relatives of Sept. 11 victims and of first responders who died at the trade center.
Maureen Santora and her husband, Alexander, of Queens, were among those at the Lincoln Square showing. Their son, Firefighter Christopher Santora, 23, of Engine Co. 54, died on Sept. 11.
"I have to see this. I don't know how I'm going to react," Maureen Santora said. "After listening to the audio at the Moussaiou trial, I know this is going to be gut-wrenching, because those people all knew they were going to die." But, she added, "I'm going because I need to continue to get the truth of how the day evolved."
John Quinn, 44, of Brooklyn, had a simple response when asked why he had come to "United 93."
From his jacket's breast pocket, he pulled a color photograph of a smiling woman -- his friend, Joyce Carpeneto, 40, of Manhattan, who died in the north tower.
"Because of her," he said.