Though so much of the way we live today seems to have been shaped by the events of Sept. 11, 2001, it’s still startling to realize that it’s been 10 years since that fateful day. For those who witnessed its horrors firsthand — whether in New York City, Washington, D.C. or Shanksville, Pa. — the memories remain all too fresh. Even for those who only watched on television, the images and aftershocks are indelible.
Rebuilding a life in the wake of Sept. 11
A decade later, we are still coming to grips with the toll of 9/11. As our culture continues to process its ramifications, myriad writers have taken to the page to recount, deconstruct and understand the experience. Here are just a few books that take a poignant look at the events and effects of the event.
‘Tower Stories: An Oral History of 9/11’
By Damon DiMarco
(Santa Monica Press)
Arguably the most successful attempt at capturing the enormity of the events of 9/11, Damon DiMarco’s sprawling oral history runs a wide gamut of testimony from survivors, responders, witnesses and people whose lives were forever altered by the attacks. The human stories are presented with a raw candor a thousand times more affecting than any cold statistic offered by a commission. The most recent, expanded edition includes follow-up interviews with some of the individuals initially profiled, providing updates on their lives and their ongoing struggles to come to terms with the events of a decade ago. “Tower Stories” is a riveting and disarmingly emotional read.
‘102 Minutes: The Untold Story of the Fight to Survive Inside the Twin Towers’
By Jim Dwyer and Kevin Flynn
New York Times reporter Dwyer and special projects editor Flynn chronicle what happened in the World Trade Center on 9/11 between 8:46 a.m., when the first hijacked plane crashed into the North Tower, and that tower’s collapse at 10:28, 29 minutes after the South Tower fell. Their account is as gripping as it is meticulous, filled with tales of both horror and heroism: a bank employee who evacuated after the first collision, then returned to his desk, only to die after seeing the second plane hurtle straight toward his office; an insurance executive trapped in an elevator plunging downward, its cables severed; a window washer who escaped from an elevator stuck between floors by scraping through wallboard and ceramic tile; people clawing their way toward the windows of the upper floors, desperate for a breath of air. The scores of stories they present from dozens of different viewpoints are harrowing and haunting.
‘Through the Children’s Gate: A Home in New York’
By Adam Gopnik
“Through the Children’s Gate” is a collection of essays by the celebrated New Yorker contributor about his 2001 relocation to Manhattan after a lengthy spell in Paris, detailed in his previous book, “Paris to the Moon.” Gopnik and his budding family of four arrive back in the city just before Sept. 11, but his book does not dwell gratuitously on the horrors of that day. Instead, Gopnik grapples thoughtfully with the unnerving challenge of raising his children in an environment of unimaginable, traumatic change. How do you alleviate the concerns of a 9-year-old who has just witnessed one of the greatest catastrophes of our lifetime? As he observes his kids immersing themselves in imaginary friends, pets, fads, music, holidays and sports — both as a means of navigating the 9/11 experience and simply going through the process of being a kid in New York City — Gopnik finds himself questioning the rituals of being both a parent and an endearingly fallible adult. The book becomes less about the tragedy of the attacks than contemporary life in post-9/11 New York.
More in books
‘Where You Left Me’
By Jennifer Gardner Trulson
A frank, first-person account of one woman’s struggle to come to grips with losing her husband on Sept. 11, Jennifer Gardner Trulson’s “Where You Left Me” strips widowhood of its somber mystique and frames it in the sharp, uncompromising light of day. Haunted by her idyllic former life as a happily married wife and mother, Trulson is forced to come to terms with a new reality. Determined to move forward and not diminish her husband by focusing “on how he died instead of how he lived,” she earns a second chance and builds a new life for her family.
‘The Legacy Letters’
Collected by Tuesday’s Children; edited by Brian Curtis
Tuesday’s Children is a nonprofit organization that supports families of 9/11 victims and others impacted by global terrorism. This affecting book comprises poignant letters from children, parents, spouses, family members and other loved ones of 100 people who died in the attacks. Some of the letter writers are lifelong New Yorkers; others are first-generation Americans, or citizens of other countries. Yet from all their diverse voices, a motif emerges: resolve to honor the loved ones they lost by living purposeful lives. As one writes: “People think that we have ‘moved on,’ but I prefer to think we have moved forward.” All proceed from sales of the book go to Tuesday’s Children.
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