"There is no center to this day, no middle or end. All its remaining minutes and hours will be collapsed into that single instant at 8:48 a.m. when September 11, 2001, became the saddest day of our history," writes Dennis Smith, a retired New York City firefighter. Shortly after the two planes hit the World Trade Center towers, he volunteered to help in the rescue effort. In this diary of the three months following the attack, Smith combines his own observations with interviews of those involved in the work, creating a detailed day-by-day history of the massive effort to find life among the ruins. His 18 years of experience in the field and considerable writing skills (he is the author of Report from Engine Co. 82
and nine other books) make him uniquely qualified to cover these events. To say the book is moving is an understatement--it is often overwhelming and difficult to read. Report from Ground Zero
exacts an emotional toll on the reader; writing it must have been heartbreaking. In chronicling the hope, courage, and compassion embodied by all of the rescue workers, Smith has performed yet another service to his country. Note: A portion of the proceeds from sales of the book will be contributed by the author and publisher to the Foundation for American Firefighters. --Shawn Carkonen
The first-person narratives in this account of the rescue efforts at the World Trade Center constitute a tremendously powerful chronicle of September 11th. The language of the firefighters and police officers is blunt and vivid, the details are sharply etched, and the fractured stories—particularly of those who were inside the towers but somehow escaped—offer a Cubist vision of the day's chaos. The book's description of the disaster's aftermath is less successful: Smith conveys the ritualistic and sacramental nature of the search for the victims' remains, but he lapses too frequently into sentimentality and abstract meditations on patriotism and courage. The author, who also wrote the gripping "Report from Engine Co. 82," does best when he lets the images speak for themselves: the airplane luggage scattered across the plaza; the waves of firemen disappearing into the stairwells; the indelible sound—"like an M-80 firecracker," one man says—of bodies hitting the ground; and the moment when suddenly there was "nothing but dust."
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