Dokoupil, Tony, Newsweek
Byline: Tony Dokoupil
On Sept. 13, 2001, the Chamberlain family of Staten Island, N.Y., got a call from a documentary filmmaker named James Ronald Whitney. Amid the sea of "missing" fliers tacked up all over downtown, one photo in particular had caught his eye: it showed 36-year-old Michele Lanza (nee Chamberlain), an administrative assistant on the 97th floor of the South Tower, with her 7-year-old son, Nicholas. Whitney asked for permission to keep a vigil with the family and tell the story of mother and son.
The result was the Emmy-winning 2002 HBO documentary Telling Nicholas, which captured the agonizing wait for news of Michele and the moment when her husband, Robert, finally breaks the news of her death to their son.
For the Chamberlain family, the personal tragedy was compounded by the fact that Michele had just embarked on a new life. Recently separated, she had moved from Virginia back to her childhood neighborhood, found a job, and settled Nicholas into first grade. …