High School 9-1-1: Post 53 documentary debuts at Darien Library

Photo of Justin Papp

DARIEN — Tim Warren’s days in Post 53 are long since over, but on a recent night at Darien Library, the television producer turned documentary director delivered an ode to his hometown and the singular EMS program of which he was once a member.

On Tuesday, Dec. 20 Warren could finally bring his documentary, “High School 9-1-1,” back home, debuting the film with two showings. Posties past, and present were in attendance, some of whom were featured in the film or witnessed the filming first hand.

“It just brings it all full circle. It’s been a long journey, but to bring it back to Darien and see the reactions of the people that are in the audience who were around when we were initially shooting the film is just awesome,” Warrens said after the first of two screenings at the library, at 4:30 p.m. Many in the crowd were forced to stand, as seats in the library’s auditorium filled up quickly for the much-anticipated screening.

Warren shot the film over the course of roughly a year beginning in 2007, following a group of Posties into their homes, their classrooms and Post 53 itself and gaining unprecedented access into the lives of the young men and women that comprise Darien’s Post 53 and the ways in which the unique experiences of a Postie can shape a teen.

Because Warren and his partner at Boomerang Productions, Kelli Joan Bennett, were financing and editing the film themselves, the movie was held up for nearly a decade as Warren and Bennett taught themselves to edit, cut, and then recut the film most of the time, all while maintaining full time jobs.

A much leaner version of the film than was originally — down from more than two hours to less than 90 minutes — premiered at Indiana’s Heartland Film Festival in October, kicking off a nationwide tour of screenings.

“We’re showing it to various organizations that really align themselves with promoting young people and the empowerment of young people through responsibility,” Warren said.

Though many of the Posties present during filming have since gone on to college and careers outside of Connecticut, several were in attendance.

Spencer Matson was 16 at the time of filming and, for a time, wasn’t sure he’d ever see the documentary featuring his younger self.

“It was filmed 10 years ago, so we all half expected never to see this footage again. It’s funny seeing it, especially now since we’ve all gone different ways and we all have a lot less hair.

It’s kind of like looking at an old photo album and seeing all these photos that you’ve forgotten about,” said Matson, who continues to volunteer with Post 53 even after receiving a degree in history from Johns Hopkins University and a brief stint working at a law firm. “I realized this law firm thing is not so much fun, and that every night I was going back to work on the ambulance.”

Other Posties at the premiere also felt drawn back to their EMT work after graduating high school.

Cecillia Lee, who was a sophomore candidate for Post 53 at the time of filming, went on to volunteer as an EMT in college.

“I did EMS all throughout college with Cornell University EMS. So, I was very lucky to go in there with my EMT experiences and then also see how another organization handles emergency medicine,” Lee said, flanked on either side by her parents whose pride, both on screen and in person on Tuesday night, at their daughter’s involvement with Post 53 was evident.

Lee added that, because she was so consumed with the stress of high school and earning her way into Post 53, the cameras were not a distraction.

“I had just entered high school and had just started the candidacy process at that point, so everything was very new to me. I feel like being filmed on top of that got pushed to the back of my mind because I was trying to figure out high school and trying to figure out Post 53,” Lee said, taking a short break from reuniting with former Posties in the library’s busy lobby before the 6:30 p.m. showing.

Asked if she keeps in touch with former Posties Lee responded: “Oh absolutely, Posties for life.”

justin.papp@scni.com; @justinjpapp1