'Yanks' offers new view of 9-11

If I had to choose only one of the dozens of documentaries dedicated to the events of 9-11, I would watch "Stranded Yanks: A Diary Between Friends" (8 p.m., PBS). This is not to slight some of the other excellent programming. It's just that "Yanks" provides an all-but-unreported perspective on that terrible day and offers a uniquely uplifting TV experience.

When the federal government ordered U.S. airspace closed last Sept. 11, more than 40,000 airline passengers were still bound for American cities. Most of these travelers were rerouted to airports on Canada's East and West coasts. "Yanks" offers harrowing first-person accounts of fliers who were told that their planes were landing in Canada due to "technical difficulties." Once on the ground, the passengers were informed by their pilots that "an attack on America" was the real reason for their delay.

After spending more than 24 anxious and isolated hours on the runway, the travelers found themselves stranded in tiny airports in towns like Moncton, New Brunswick and St. John's, Newfoundland. Stuck in the terminals, the disoriented Americans clustered around TV sets to watch horrifying reports from New York, Washington and Shanksville, Pa.

Then something wonderful began to happen. All over Canada, thousands of volunteers arrived at the airports to cook hot meals and offer consolation. Donations of spare blankets and sheets arrived without warning. Countless Canadians opened their homes.

"Stranded Yanks" will never win any Emmy Awards for technical sophistication. Its title was purposefully chosen to hearken back to wartime solidarity between our two nations. But like a lot of World War II "propaganda" films, "Yanks" just may leave you with a lump in your throat and a reminder that simple kindness can be the most powerful expression of patriotism.

� Former New York fireman Dennis Smith is host of "Report From Ground Zero" (8 p.m., ABC), a documentary adaptation of his best-selling book.

Smith interviews dozens of police, fireman and other "first responders" who recall their horror, shock and survival. This is a splendid piece of filmmaking.

Tonight's other highlights

� Rory skips Lorelai's big day to hang out with Jess on "Gilmore Girls" (7 p.m., WB).

� Nick takes action when he sees a rival put in charge of the firm on "The Guardian" (8 p.m., CBS).

� A 90-minute edition of "Dateline" (9 p.m., NBC) examines the rise of Osama bin Laden and the conspirators behind the Sept. 11 attacks.

Series notes

� All are repeats � Lt. Commander Teresa Coulter (Trisha Yearwood) returns on "JAG" (7 p.m., CBS) � Nina falls for Gary (Huey Lewis), a member of Finch and Kevin's air-guitar band, on "Just Shoot Me" (7 p.m., NBC) � Donna loses her head for Casey on "That '70s Show" (7 p.m., Fox) � On back-to-back episodes of "According to Jim" (ABC), misadventures in baby-sitting (7 p.m.), a nonsurprise party (7:30 p.m.) � On back-to-back episodes of "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" (UPN): a brutal event shakes the group (7 p.m.) and sends Willow on a rampage (8 p.m.).

� On back-to-back episodes of "Frasier" (NBC), an intimidating teen panel (7:30 p.m.), and Dr. Crane pretends to be Roz's boyfriend (8 p.m.)

� Sean discovers a pregnancy test and worries and wonders whether it belongs to Lily or Claudia on "Grounded for Life" (7:30 p.m., Fox) � Unscripted moment from "The Newlywed Game," "The Dating Game," "Let's Make a Deal" and "Hollywood Squares" on "TV's Funniest Game Show Moments" (8 p.m., Fox) � Kryptonite exposure gives Lana new powers of empathy on "Smallville" (8 p.m., WB).

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