Wednesday, September 7, 2011

We're Not Leaving: 9/11 Responders Tell Their Stories of Courage, Sacrifice, and Renewal - Benjamin J. Luft, M.D.

Summary:  We're Not Leaving is a compilation of powerful first-person narratives told from the vantage point of World Trade Center disaster workers -- police officers, firefighters, construction workers, and other volunteers at the site.

While the effects of 9/11 on these everyday heroes and heroines are indelible, and in some cases have been devastating, at the heart of their deeply personal stories -- their harrowing escapes from the falling Towers, the egregious environment they worked in for months, the alarming health effects they continue to deal with -- is their witness to their personal strength and renewal in the ten years since.

These stories, shared by ordinary people who responded to disaster and devastation in extraordinary ways, remind us of America's strength and inspire us to recognize and ultimately believe in our shared values of courage, duty, patriotism, self-sacrifice, and devotion, which guide us in dark times.

The narratives featured in this book are part of a larger World Trade Center History Project that has archived more than 200 videotaped responder interviews and will be a permanent collection housed at the Library of Congress.  For more information, visit www.911respondersremember.org(Summary from book - Image from www.greenpointpress.org - Book given free for an honest review)

My Review: This book hit me hard, so you’re going to get more than a review.  Deal with it.  This book is worth it. 

We're Not Leaving is a brilliant collection of first-person accounts gathered from those who survived and responded to the September 11th terrorist attack on the Word Trade Center.  These powerfully compelling narratives offer revealing perspectives -- from the policemen, firefighters, and EMT's who managed to survive the collapse of the towers, to the pastors, podiatrists, and massage therapists who arrived soon after the attacks to offer aid to wearied workers.  Each account is a poignant and riveting chronicle of their own thoughts and experiences on 9/11 and their role in the many days of rescue, reconstruction, and renewal that followed. 

Most people remember where they were when they heard the news. I was standing in a towel in the middle of my one bedroom apartment. When the Towers crumbled, my legs gave out. I thought I understood what happened that day. That seems so silly now. We’re Not Leaving forced me to confront the sheer magnitude of this disaster – that it was more than just one day in history but rather the beginning of a long process of recovery. Just days after the tragedy, the EPA and various government agencies assured workers that the air was safe, when it was not, and they knew it. When the Towers fell, not only were thousands of innocent lives taken, but all those who responded were exposed to toxins that have led to chronic respiratory illnesses, cancer, and in some cases even death. These responders also saw things that no one should ever have to see,did things no one should ever have to do, and suffer from PTSD, depression, and a variety of other emotional problems as a result. 

September 11th, 2001 was a tragic day, made even more tragic by how we have neglected to care for those who ran towards the threat when others ran away, who dug through the burning rubble with their bare hands so strangers would have some part of a loved one to bury, and who comforted those who needed comfort. They were determined to leave no one behind – and then we left them when they needed us. They have had to fight for proper medical coverage and the government has made only token efforts to accommodate their needs.  Now that media coverage is reduced to a yearly memorial, many responders feel that despite our promise to "never forget," Americans have forgotten this tragedy, perhaps not as an event, but because we have failed in our duty to demand adequate care for those we once hailed as heroes.

Reading this book was my opportunity to bear witness to the events surrounding 9/11, and in so doing honor the lives lost and the sacrifices made by those who did what they felt they had to do. Emotionally, this was a difficult read. Physically, I could not put it down. Words, even their own, will never adequately describe what these people went through. It was horrific and unimaginable. I learned things I never knew about the attacks that shook me to the core. However, there were countless moments when I was overwhelmed with the compassion, kindness, and camaraderie of ordinary men and women who helped when they did not have to, and a nation that banded together during an indescribable moment in U.S. History. I was moved to tears by these revealing and bittersweet moments of courage and sacrifice -- committed to paper and bound up in a book that every American should read.

My Rating: 5 Stars

For the sensitive reader: Some understandable use of profanity and unavoidable descriptions of death.

Sum it up: A must read for any American who has ever said, "We will never forget." You will never forget this book, or the sacrifices of the men and women's whose stories grace its pages.

3 comments:

Shannon @ Reading Has Purpose said...

I've been seeing several of these books crop up lately. I've avoided reading any of them because I'm sure they all tug at the heart strings. If I decide to read one, I think it will be this one because I like that this is the story from several perspectives and not just one.

Tribute Books said...

Thank you Mindy for taking the time to read and review this important book. I was watching CNN last night and Sanjay Gupta brought a container of World Trade Center dust to show Anderson Cooper. He said after they analyzed it - it was composed of mercury, asbestos and jet fuel and other chemical combinations the scientists had never seen before. It is unpardonable that the government refuses to step in and pay for their medical coverage. There will only be more and more cases of cancer as years go by. These people deserve to have their medical treatment paid for.

MindySue said...

I agree. Early this year, right before this book went to press, Obama signed the James Zagroda Bill (aka the 9/11 Healthcare Bill) that is helping to provide medical care for many injured 9/11 workers. Honestly, it's the very least that we can do and, from what I can gather, it is only for a set number of years.

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