This is a five star read. William Groneman III has captured the essence of September 11, 2001. He began the day in the ordinary world. He learned of the attacks on the World Trade Center after both planes had struck but before the first collapse. As did I. Then, sitting on a hotel room bed, I watched the first tower come down . . . and kept glancing at the word in the corner of the TV screen. "Live," I thought. "This is live."
Groneman took me with him into the nightmare world of Lower Manhattan, covered in the pulverized dust of buildings which only hours before had been offices where people strove and dreamed. The sense of unreality is compelling; of not knowing when or if the attacks would stop, of believing we might all be dead already. An office tower burning and no one fighting it, Groneman's stinging eyes and parched throat, his frustration while waiting for the impossibility of order out of chaos, and an assignment that might make a difference. As he works at Ground Zero, he sees many brother firefighters he knew well after over twenty years in the FDNY. They compare notes, who made it . . . who did not.
In the book, Groneman is pictured with the Lone Star flag that flew over the Alamo on September 11. His day began with a run on pristine Jones Beach on Long Island. Mine began in the San Antonio hotel across the street from the Alamo. Where were you?
Get September 11 and read it. Groneman's low-key, almost humble style, yet laced with a dry wit, captures the FDNY's "whistling past the graveyard" banter. He will make you laugh . . . and cry. And remember.