On the tenth anniversary of 9/11, a portrait of tragedy, survival, and healing from the author of The New York Times bestseller Report from Ground Zero. This year marks the tenth anniversary of the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, an occasion that is sure to be observed around the world. But among the memorials, political speeches, and news editorials, the most pressing consideration- and often the most overlooked-is the lives and well-being of the 9/11 first responders, their families, and the victims’ families over the past decade.
Dennis Smith, a former firefighter and the author of the bestselling Report from Ground Zero, addresses this important topic in a series of interviews with the heroes and families of those most affected by the tragedy either through feats of bravery in the rescue efforts or heroic bearing up in the face of unimaginable loss. Smith provides an intimate look at a terrible moment in history and its challenging and difficult aftermath, allowing these survivors to share their stories of loss, endurance, and resilience in their own words. A Decade of Hope is an honest and vitally important look at a decade in the lives of those for whom a national tragedy was a devastatingly personal ordeal.
The day of September 11, 2001 has been forever engraved into my memory. Although I lived across the country, I remember first hearing about the first airplane strike as I drove home that morning. My mother and I sat quietly and watched the news coverage. I remember seeing how much the towers were swaying from the impact and I warned my mother that they were not going to remain standing. None of us were prepared for the events that transpired that tragic day, but it resonated with me, as it did with all of us, in a profound way. Over the years I have read many of the stories of those who survived that day and some of the families who were trying to piece together their loved ones last moments.
This book was difficult to read at times. The stories that emerged left me in tears and at times outraged. My anger was at those who caused the deaths of so many people, but at times, it was also at the statements in the book, especially in regards to villainizing an entire religion. I know this is a strong area of debate among a lot of people, and I don’t want to get into all of that. But one of the stories is about a young man who was of a Muslim faith and he had been a NYPD recruit. He ran away from his car and into one of the buildings to help people. He gave up his life and his family was accused of being traitors and called him a terrorist. His legacy was also disgraced because he is not listed as a first responder, despite the fact he was one. It’s stories of willful ignorance and discrimination that left me angry and ashamed of how easily we can clump people under one category. For me, his story should serve to help us learn to stop blaming everyone for the actions of just a few.
This is a powerful book and many of the reflections from the survivors or the families may differ from your own. But I do feel that their stories are valid and deserve to be told. The memory of all the victims who lost their lives that day should be honored, regardless of their religious beliefs. If you choose to read this book (and I hope you do) prepare yourself, because it’s a hard journey and it’s never easy to read about tragedies such as this.