2011.51 REVIEW – We’re Not Leaving by Benjamin J. Luft, M.D.

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

Copyright: 2011
Pages: 300
Rating: 5/5
Read: Sept. 3– Sept. 7, 2011
Challenge: What’s in a Name 4 Challenge
Yearly Count: 51
Format: Print
Source: Review Copy

Blurb: 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.

Review: I received this book courtesy of Rebecca with The Cadence Group. Wow.

I don’t know what else to say about this book. The events surrounding 9/11 are such a sensitive topic and with the 10th anniversary knocking on our door, I was immediately interested in getting this review opportunity. The emotions of the people who lent their stories to this book just pour out from the pages. As a reader, my heart broke numerous times just reading what people went through.

Personally, I watched the events unfold on television from the safety of my midwestern high school through the eyes of a sixteen-year-old. At the time I don’t think I really understood what was going on, I didn’t really grasp the enormity of what I was seeing. And then again, I did. I knew this was serious. I had studied all about the different wars that America had fought through the years. But this was no war (at the time) … this was an attack on our soil against our people.

This book really opened my eyes to what everyone went through. You can only feel so much watching things on television. But hearing the words of some the people who lived through this, well that puts things in an entirely different perspective. That makes it more real to someone like me.

I think that the introduction does a good job at explaining what this book is all about. From page xvii:

The testimony in this book is different in that it speaks both from and to the soul. Through their deeply personal and unique perspectives, the stories of 9/11 responders in their own voices, help us understand the human impact of the World Trade Center disaster and encourage us all to heal.

Healing. That’s something that we all had to do together. As a country. And I don’t think we’ve healed entirely. I think that 9/11 is still a sore that is opened up at any given moment.

One of the things that struck me when I was reading this book was the amount of guilt that a lot of the responders felt. Countless people were running into the madness when so many people running away. And yet some people still feel guilt. Guilt because they couldn’t save everyone. I can’t understand what that feels like, obviously, having not been there.

I felt like what I did wasn’t enough and that it was a defeat and that so many people died. (Page 12)

The enormity of what happened on that fateful day in New York City was a lot for me to understand. I was fortunate enough to have the chance to visit New York City in 2008. I went to Ground Zero. I can’t tell you what it felt like to see that big gaping hole in the middle of the city. The emptiness of it spoke volumes. All around you skyscrapers are everywhere in New York City. That’s the norm. But there was just … nothing. And to know what used to be there and what happened, it’s just unbelievable. I was also able to go inside the museum. Wow. Definitely do that if you have the opportunity.

Everything with the World Trade Center, depends on where you were – people standing to the left of you might’ve been killed; people standing to the right of you could’ve survived. It was just all [in] the positioning. (Page 56)

That one sentence says all that can be said about who lived and who died in the Towers. It was all a matter of where you were and when you were there. There was no rhyme or reason to it.

“Where were you when….?” that will be the age-old question that will be asked countless times over the next decades. And just like those who were alive when JFK was assassinated, every single person will be able to tell you exactly where they were when they first heard. For me it was 1st period Algebra II class, junior year. That day will stay with me for the rest of my life. As it should. It’s part of our history now. We can only learn and grow from it.

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