by Damon DiMarco
The only widely available oral history of 9/11 from the perspective of New Yorkers, this monumental work (originally released by Revolution in 2004) has been updated for the sixth anniversary of the national tragedy. In the weeks following the World Trade Center attack, DiMarco, in the tradition of Studs Terkel, wandered Manhattan collecting the stories of Gothamites who survived the collapse of the towers, came to help or simply bore witness-whether from elsewhere in the city, across the country or overseas. Two major themes emerge, the first concerning the heroism of common decency: Florence Engoran, five months pregnant on the day of the attack, was helped down 55 flights of stairs by near-strangers, "two men who promised that they were gonna stay with me the whole time down, which they did." In the same vein, Jan Demczur relates how he used his window washing tools to save himself and an elevator full of people, and Dr. Walter Gerasimowicz tells of the men who aided him when he was forced to evacuate without his crutches. The rigors of loss and mourning make a second theme: Patrick Charles Welsh, whose wife perished on Flight 93, says, "I was so devastated by this unheard cry of souls... This moan of humanity going straight up to heaven." Though a good idea, the scholarly essays that close the book, concerning the U.S.-Middle East relations, feel off-puttingly distant compared to the stories that precede them. DiMarco's contribution to the memory of that horrific day is enormous; the testimonies collected here form an amazing, one-of-a-kind account. Photos.
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