American Heart: 9/11 Tenth Anniversary
by Jeremy Dirac, Recorder Staff
When Doug Potoksky of Deerfield took a picture, which he called ”American Heart,” in front of a New York City firehouse that had lost 16 of its firefighters on Sept. 11, he never expected that it would be featured in the Smithsonian Museum, or hung at Penn Station in New York City.
But the photograph, which features flowers and flags left to remember the fallen firefighters from at a fire station on 8th Avenue, one of the 75 fire houses in New York that lost at least one member, went on to serve as the backdrop art for First Aid, a Northampton concert last year that featured bands from the Summer of Love tour, including Jefferson Starship, Big Brother & the Holding Company and Quicksilver Messenger Service.
First Aid proceeds went to benefit injured soldiers returning home from war in Iraq.
Now, Potoksky has gotten together with the organizer of that concert, David Mech of Springfield to make a film, which bears the name of Potoksky’s famous photograph.
The film features music from the First Aid concert along with photography by Potoksky, some footage from Iraq, from the Walter Reed Army Medical Center and from a Woodstock concert, among other things.
”It’s real. It’s real people,” Potoksky said. ”It’s a documentary, but it’s real.”
”American Heart” started off as the documentation of the First Aid concert, said Mech, who filmed, directed and produced the film, which is to have its premiere in Woodstock, N.Y., on April 11.
Mech said that it started out as a little film about the Live Aid concert. But when Mech’s soon-to-be brother-in-law invited him to visit Walter Reed, he filmed there, too. And, when an acquaintance, U.S. Army Sgt. Mark Ecker, a 21-year-old East Longmeadow native who lost both of his legs below the knees, was asked to throw a pitch at a Red Sox game, he decided to film that, too.
Although the film attempts to parallel the war in Vietnam with the war in Iraq and shows clips of President George Bush standing in front of a Mission Accomplished banner, it is not intended as an argument against the war, but as a way of showing Americans’ love of its soldiers, and how they’ve been helping to care for soldiers while the government has been failing to provide them with the services that they need, Mech said.
On Saturday, Mech said he recorded the last piece of A Piece of American Heart, and it’s especially personal for him.
That morning, he saw his soon-to-be son-in-law, Christopher Dotton, participate in a deployment ceremony in Boxborough.
”Really, it all changes when someone you are close to is going in,” Mech said, his voice breaking and his eyes tearing.