From Publishers Weekly
Langewiesche had unrestricted access to Manhattan's Ground Zero during the post-September 11 cleanup, and his triptych of articles (originally published in the Atlantic Monthly) takes readers through what became known to its denizens as the Pile, from the moment of destruction to the departure of the last truckload of rubble from the ruins a little less than nine months later. He gives a calm, precise account of the air traffic controllers trying to understand what was happening to the hijacked planes and explains precisely how the towers collapsed. The stars of the rest of this story are people one doesn't usually read about: administrators, engineers and construction workers in charge of the cleanup-a process in which, as Langewiesche describes it, order emerged from chaos by the sheer force of will of those in charge. One such outsize personality is David Griffin, a demolition expert who drove up from North Carolina, bluffed his way onto the restricted site, and quickly wound up in a position of authority. There's also a frank account of the tensions between police and firefighters at Ground Zero. Most fascinating, though, Langewiesche takes readers right inside the smoking Pile, as he joins workers on dangerous underground expeditions to see whether the slurry walls that keep out the Hudson will hold, or whether freon might be leaking from underground refrigerators. This is a genuinely monumental story, told without melodrama, an intimate depiction of ordinary Americans reacting to grand-scale tragedy at their best-and sometimes their worst.
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.
"The most thoughtful and original [9-11] book to appear so far is American Ground, William Langewiesche's meticulous description of the rescue effort at Ground Zero and the subsequent excavation of the 1.8 million tons of debris at the literal and emotional heart of this calamity. Langewiesche was granted almost unlimited access to the site and the rescue staff, and he made the most of the privilege."
-Malcolm Jones, Newsweek
"This is a genuinely monumental story, told without melodrama, an intimate depiction of ordinary Americans reacting to grand-scale tragedy."
-Publishers Weekly (starred review)
"An extraordinary story . . . Langewiesche . . . was the only reporter granted total access to Ground Zero . . . He spent nine months there and emerged to write American Ground: Unbuilding the World Trade Center . . . It is an amazing piece of journalism, full of colorful characters and astonishing scenes."
-The Washington Post