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Film captures McCartney's 'Love' for New York after 9/11

Aug. 4, 2011 at 5:20 PM ET

Sir Paul McCartney sprang into action after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, to help try to heal the people of New York. The result was the Concert for New York City benefit six weeks later. The preparation for the show and McCartney’s interaction with New Yorkers after the attack were caught on tape, and will air as the documentary “The Love We Make” on Showtime on Sept. 10.

On Thursday, he spoke at the Television Critics Press tour in Los Angeles -- via satellite from Cincinnati – about what he experienced on Sept. 11 and what drove him to help.

Mario Anzuoni / Reuters /
Paul McCartney answers a question via satellite during the Showtime session for "The Love We Make" during the 2011 Summer Television Critics Association Cable Press Tour in Beverly Hills, Calif., on Thursday.

“I was on my way back to England having just had a short visit to America,” McCartney recounted. “We were at JFK on the tarmac. The pilot just suddenly said we can’t take off, we have to go back to base. And out of the window out of the right hand side of the airplane, you could see the Twin Towers. First you could see one plume of smoke, and then you could see two shortly thereafter.”

McCartney said that at first, he thought it was an optical illusion, and that he didn’t realize how serious it was until a steward told him something “serious” had happened and whisked him off the plane.

Afterward, the former Beatle said that he wasn’t able to go back into the city and wound up in Long Island, where he watched the events unfold on TV.

“While I was sitting there twiddling my thumbs thinking what to do, was there any role I can play in this, the idea came to me that maybe we could do a concert,” he said.

"The whole mood of the world, the country of America, and particularly the city of New York had changed. There was fear in the air. And I never experienced that, particularly in New York. So this was where the idea of doing a show came about.”

McCartney also said that growing up in a post-World War II Liverpool inspired him to use music to help the people of New York: “I grew up with all these people who just recently survived a war, and I noticed how they dealt with it. (He began to sing an old war song.) So I remembered that. And I thought, ‘That’s maybe what I can bring to this.’ Maybe I can just get that kind of feeling, that kind of old courage that I’d seen my parents and their generation exhibit. Maybe I’d be able to help America, New York out of this fearfulness.”

The musician said it wasn’t his intent to wait for the 10th anniversary of Sept. 11 to do a documentary about the concert, but that the date spurred him to action.

“(The anniversary) just seemed like a good opportunity, so I got in touch with (director) Albert (Maysles) and said, ‘Is (all the footage from the concert) still all around? Would it make into a film?’ He said, ‘Yes, it would,’ so I said, ‘C’mon. Let’s do it, then.’ ”

So here's a little sampling of McCartney performing for New York almost 10 years ago as we await the new documentary:

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