September 11, 2001 was a tragedy to the World, the United States, and the cities of Washington DC, and New York. The West Wing, based in Washington, immediately came out with an episode, written by Aaron Sorkin, to enfold the events and the aftermath within the show's universe. Given that the show was a long-standing serial drama, that episode had a special drama that was clearly out of the normal flow.

[Law and Order, based in New York City, and filmed there, as I recall, never made a mention of the events of that day, either directly or indirectly, even though the show is episodic, and a mention or incorporation into the scripts would have been a less jarring effort.]

EDIT: This assertion is found to be inaccurate. There are quite a few direct and indirect references to the terrorist attack in the episodes here.

As in my other question about Serena Southerlyn, I am currently rewatching the episodes of that timeframe on Sundance, which is re-running the series "from the beginning". Knowing the real world event from that 2001 season, I am being especially concious to comments that might have a subtext. Being a given that the first few episodes were probably already in the can ready for the season premieres, it can be assumed the episodes say from 6 or higher through the end of season had a greater chance of such mention. Is there an episode or more that directly makes reference to the events in their city for September 11, 2001?


1 Answer 1


A number of episodes in a row make references to the September 11, 2001 event, starting in December 2001, and into early January 2002. The episode for Novemeber 28, 2001, "3 Dawg Night", doesn't present as a post-event episode. I believe it was completed before the terrorist attack, as none of the detectives or DA staff members wear US flag pins on their lapels.

The next one, televised 12/12/2001, "Prejudice" has clear post-event backgrounds since it included United States flags flown in shop windows and other sites where it would have been unusual before - dry cleaners, bars, a construction site. The police and DA staff have US flag lapel pins visible in every scene from this episode forward. The case concerns a murder tried as a hate crime of white-on-black. McCoy uses terrorism within his closing. The suspect uses the idea of Arabs on airplanes. Serena makes a clear statement that after "what happened to the Towers", that we need to hold people accountable for their actions.

In the next episode "The Collar", televised 1/9/2002, Serena says "With everything happening right now in this city, is now the right time to be challenging the church?" The courthouse step scene, usually a fairly standard, sedate one, shows armed military and police presence at the entrances and sawhorse police barricades.

The next one "Undercovered", was televised 1/16/2002. A grocery which also sold liquor has a prominent U.S. flag behind the register; its proprietor is NOT caucasian. An art gallery was holding a charity auction for the 9-11 Fund. There are again armed military outside the courthouse, and the police barricades have been upgraded to metal ones. McCoy references heroic "police running into collapsing buildings" in his closing.

UPDATE: By late March , "Girl Most Likely", televised 3/27/2002, the flag lapel pins on Asst DA Southerlyn's outfits are missing for two episodes in a row. She does not even use one on her overcoat lapel, which DA Nora Lewin does. The Detectives still use theirs, and McCoy through most of the episode. The final recap scene has his jacket missing it, where it was present just in court before. This could be a costuming mistake, rather than character development (or maybe actor preference?).

UPDATE 2: By May , "Attorney Client", televised 5/8/2002, the flag lapel pins on Asst DA Southerlyn's outfits are missing for all consecutive episodes since March. The Detectives still use theirs consistently, as does McCoy. DA Nora Lewin used to wear the pin on her overcoat, and it is missing regularly. The contrast is starkly evident. It can only mean intentional character development by the writers, producers, or the actresses.

UPDATE 3: Law and Order SVU dedicated the whole of season 3 to the victims and families of 9/11

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