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Since Sept. 11, NBC’s ”Third Watch” has debated whether it should — or could — shoot another episode. Producers, who use real NYC police, firefighters, and paramedics as extras and actors, knew many of the rescue workers called to ground zero; several were lost in the disaster. In grappling with how to proceed, Watch cocreators John Wells and Edward Allen Bernero came up with a two-hour special that emulates a renowned episode of Wells’ Vietnam medical drama, ”China Beach” (which wove actual vets’ stories into the fictional hospital unit). In Watch’s Oct. 15 tribute, actors introduce interviews with real-life emergency workers. ”We’ve always known the people we portray are heroes,” says Skipp Sudduth, who plays a cop. ”But we wanted to acknowledge that we understood the difference between our characters and the real people.” The attacks will be depicted in a future story line, with the Oct. 22 season premiere set on Sept. 10. ”We wanted to get to the place where all of us lived the day before this happened,” Sudduth says, ”a place of innocence.”

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