Langewiesche, William. American Ground: Unbuilding the World Trade Center. Maryland: Recorded Books, LLC, 2003.
There is something so impressive when an author is given “unrestricted access” to his or her subject. To me, it inspires endless possibilities. When I found out Langewiesche was given “unrestricted access” to the cleanup after 9/11 I was excited. American Ground is the story of the physical breakdown, piece by piece, of the World Trade Center (hence the use of the word “unbuilding” in the subtitle). Probably the most fascinating part of American Ground was the unbelievable “territorial war” between the firefighters and the police, each believing their dead was more important than the other. There was a great disunity between the groups as the clean up continued. At the same time there were shining examples of people who selflessly went above and beyond to not honor find the missing but to honor the dead.
Reason Read: September 11, 2001 is a day that will live in infamy. I don’t know of a soul who doesn’t know what I’m talking about when I say “nine-eleven.” I think it’s obvious why I chose this book for September.
Author Fact: William Langewiesche writes for the Atlantic Monthly where American Ground was first published in three parts.
Book Trivia: The audio version of American Ground was read by Richard M. Davidson, a professional actor.
BookLust Twist: From Book Lust in the chapter called “9/11″ (p 171). Simple enough.
September 2012 started in Colorado. It was nice to disappear for a week! Here are the books:
- Eleanor Roosevelt by Blanche Wiesen Cook ~ in honor of Roosevelt’s birth month
- American Ground: the Unbuilding of the World Trade Center by William Langewicshe ~ in remembrance of September 11, 2001. I will be listening to this on audio.
- Tear Down the Mountain by Roger Alan Skipper ~ in honor of an Appalachian fiddle festival that takes place in September.
- The Deerslayer by James Fenimore Cooper ~ in honor of boys going back to school.
- Ariel: the Life of Shelley by Andre Maurois ~ in honor of National Book Month.
- Enchantress From the Stars by Sylvia Louise Engdahl ~ in honor of a kid named Matt who was deemed a hero in September.
So. That’s the Challenge plan. For other books I have been told I won two Early Review books from LibraryThing but since I haven’t seen them I won’t mention them here. My aunt wants me to deliver a book to mom so I, of course, read it on the way home from Colorado so it’s already finished: To Heaven and Back: a Doctor’s Extraordinary Account of Her Death, Heaven, Angels, and Life Again by Mary C. Neal, MD. It was an amazing book.
This should have been posted sometime in September – sorry!
Smith, Dennis. Report From Ground Zero. New York: Viking, 2002.
I chose to squeeze this onto my September reading list because it matched my mood, my New York State of Mind, if you will. When you are embraced by sadness additional tragedies are easier to handle. It’s as if someone wants to throw a bucket of water on a man standing in the pouring rain. What’s a little more precipitation to an already drowning man? Bring it on.
The first thing you notice about Report From Ground Zero is how stark it is. My copy didn’t have publisher or copyright information. It was if my version was a rough draft, a real report from bowels of hell. It disturbed me and I can’t tell you why.
Dennis Smith asks the question everyone can answer even nine years later, “where were you on September 11, 2001?” In Report From Ground Zero Smith asks key rescue personnel to recount the moments directly after seeing, hearing, or learning of the attack on the World Trade Center towers in Lower Manhattan. He calls each story a testimony. Smith starts by giving his own account which amounts to a litany of questions surrounding logistics and survival. As a retired New York City firefighter he anticipates the magnitude of destruction and ponders the challenges surrounding survival with great concern. As each rescue worker recounts that fateful, awful day a pattern starts to emerge. Initial disbelief turns into a sense of determination as the magnitude of destruction is fully realized. Every single response was to roll up the shirts sleeves, harden the jaw and with single minded pure grit get to work. After the dust has literally and figuratively settled other shared memories come to mind – how deathly quiet and dark everything became after the towers fell; how surreal the landscape. Like nothing they had even seen before or since.
While the first half of the book contains the powerful testimony of others around him, the second half of Report From Ground Zero is Smith’s diary of the aftermath of 9/11. It isn’t as emotional as the first half of the book, but sheds critical light on one man’s determination to document just how tireless and faithful those rescue personnel searched to rescue fellow officers and even family.
Favorite lines: “I am attached to the television as if every friend I had is about to cross the screen” (p 6). I think we were all that way, for days to come.
Another one: “There is no reason why I’m alive and anyone else is dead” (p 32). Words remembered by Deputy Chief Pete Hayden.
BookLust Twist: From Book Lust in the chapter called, simply ” 9/11″ (p 171).
Sorry – forgot to post this!
September. As the song goes, “wake me when September ends” (thanks, Green Day). I got married in September just so I would have one happy memory (my wedding was freakin’ awesome). It is the one good thing to look forward to celebrating each year. Except this year. Considering how bad this September has been I am amazed I even remembered I got married in this damned month. Between Indiana being sick dying (on our anniversary no less), the anniversary of my father’s passing (18 years), my grandfather still being in hospice and my other insane family issues I can’t sleep straight. I don’t know when I’ll find mind rest again. But, here are the books that kept me somewhat sane:
- Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy by John le Carre ~ I feel bad not being able to finish (or even like) this book. For years I’ve wondered about it.
- Moo by Jane Smiley ~ was this ever a movie? I still can’t get over how caustic it was!
- Wild Life by Molly Gloss ~ this should have been a movie, too!
- Between Parent and Child by Haim Ginott ~ just told my mom about this book last night. Something I would reread if I had children.
- Where Bigfoot Walks: Crossing the Dark Divide by Robert Michael Pyle ~ this had me believing…for a minute.
- The Optimist’s Daughter by Eudora Welty ~ my biggest head-scratcher this month. Seems like I have read this before somewhere.
- The Clock Winder by Anne Tyler ~ it is interesting the way people have influence over others without wanting (or even trying). I read this in four days time.
- The Heartbreak Hotel by Anne Rivers Siddon ~ a little redundant but I read this in honor of back to school month and because I had it ready on a shelf.
- Report From Ground Zero by Dennis Smith ~ because I haven’t been sad enough
For LibraryThing’s Early Review Program:
- Play Their Hearts Out: A Coach, His Star Recruit, and the Youth Basketball Machine by George Dohrmann ~ this was intense!
I was supposed to get another book but I haven’t seen it yet. I am not going to even mention the title in case it never arrives. Even if it does comes I won’t be reading it in September.
For fun (started):
- The Lacuna by Barbara Kingsolver ~ my husband bought this for me as an anniversary present because he knows I love, love, love Ms. Kingsolver’s work. And to think I didn’t get him anything. I did end up making one of this favorite meals for the very first time, chicken pot pie.
September 2009 was…Back to school. I spent the first part of the month concentrating on hiring for the library and avoiding tragedy. Kisa and I took a much needed vacation – first to Fenway park (go Red Sox!) and then to Baltimore for a little getaway. September is the month I will always mourn my father, but now I add Mary Barney to the list of tears. As I have always said, everything bad happens in September. This year was no different. As you can tell, I buried myself in books.
The Escape was:
- The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka ~ I had completely forgotten how disturbing this book was!
- The Reivers by William Faulkner ~ a southern classic that almost had me beat.
- A Short Walk in the Hindu Kush by Eric Newby ~ funny tale about a first-time expedition
- Out of the Blue: the Story of September 11, 2001 From Jihad to Ground Zero by Richard Bernstein and the staff of The New York Times ~ an unsettling journalistic account of what really happened on 9/11/01.
- The Johnstown Flood by David McCullough ~ a nonfiction about what happens when mother nature meets bad human design.
- Off Balance: the Real World of Ballet by Suzanne Gordon ~ a nonfiction about the ugly side of dance.
- Sarah Canary by Karen Joy Fowler ~ magical book about three very broken people (in honor of real character month).
- A Student of Weather by Elizabeth Hay ~ Hay’s first novel – one I couldn’t put down it was that good! This was on the September list as “the best time to visit Canada.”
- Native Son by Richard Wright ~incredibly depressing. I’m almost sorry I read it this month.
- The View From Pompey’s Head by Hamilton Basso ~ a last minute pick-me-up, read in honor of Basso’s birth month (but also doubled as a “southern” read).
For LibraryThing and the Early Review program: Day of the Assassins by Johnny O’Brien. Geared towards teenage boys, this was a fun, fast read.
For fun, I read a quick book called Women Who Run by Shanti Sosienski . Since our flight to Baltimore was only 40-some-odd minutes I didn’t want to bring a lengthy read. This was perfect.
Bernstein, Richard, and the staff of the New York Times. Out of the Blue: the Story of September 11, 2001 From Jihad to Ground Zero. New York: Times Books, 2002.
Today was a day just like September 11, 2001. Crystal bright blue skies. Not too warm, not too cold. Almost perfect weather. Weather like that makes me suspicious – on edge. Every since 9/11/01. You probably feel the same way. Not a cloud in the sky makes me nervous. I stare up expecting it to fall down. I still can’t watch CNN reports from that day. It’s still too fresh in my mind, still too soon. Eight years later and I’m thinking it’s almost too soon to be reading Out of the Blue. Still.
Out of the Blue takes us chapter by chapter through what on September 11, 2001 – from the transformation of Osama bin Laden and the emergence of Al Qaeda to the trainings of the terrorists and finally, to the day we will never forget. A day that some are calling the end of innocence. Intermingled in this “explanation” for what happened and how it all began are the personal biographies of some of the victims. It is not clear how Bernstein chose these Americans to be included in Out of the Blue, but the inclusion of their stories illustrates just how unexpected these attacks really were. Normal, everyday routines carried out by normal everyday people were shattered in the blink of an eye. Bernstein documents the terrible reality of when the planes hit; the choking smoke, the inferno flames, the lethal leaking fuel, the rescue workers rushing into the buildings while terrified victims either rushed out or jumped to their deaths. The entire New York Times staff is to be applauded for their thoroughness for facts and details that make Out of the Blue more of a matter-of-fact (and less of a sensationalized) account of a mind numbing tragedy.
Aside from the typo on page 246 I enjoyed Out of the Blue as much as I could…considering the subject matter.
Tragic lines: “Whole families, traveling together on the hijacked planes, were obliterated together” (p 7), and “After denying for months that there would have been any way for American law enforcement or intelligence to have detected the terrorist plot beforehand, he [Director of the FBI, Robert S. Mueller] admitted that important clues to the coming disaster were ignored or neglected by the FBI” (p 157).
BookLust Twist: From Book Lust in the chapter, “9/11″ (p 171).
Because I’m still up to my eyeballs in this hiring thing I have a huge, ambitious list but I doubt I’ll actually get to all of them. I ended up with two classics, though:
- The Reivers by William Faulkner ~ in honor of Southern Gospel month
- The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka ~ in honor of (supposedly) the best time to visit Kafka’s homeland, the Czech Republic
- The Johnstown Flood by David G. McCullough ~ in honor of hurricane season (and we’ve already had two blow up the coast)
- Sarah Canary by Karen Joy Fowler ~ in honor of “real character” month (guess I’ll have to elaborate on that during the review. Even I’m not sure what I mean by that!
- Out of the Blue: the Story of September 11, 2001 From Jihad to Ground Zero by Richard Bernstein ~ need I say why?
- Short Walk in the Hindu Kush by Eric Newby in honor of National Travel Month
For LibraryThing Early Review – just got word that I received one for September. Yay. I won’t name the book until it actually shows up on my doorstep. I’ve had two no-shows so far and nothing is more disappointing that planning to read an exciting book and not have it arrive!
For fun ~ nada. Although I heard Monhegan made it into Yankee magazine. I’ll have to check that out at some point.