A collection of writings from a 9/11 survivor recalls not only the horror of that day, but also the trauma that followed months and even years after.
In this compilation of new material, blogs for the HuffPost, and Van Why’s (That Day in September, 2006) previous memoir, the author speaks not just about what he witnessed on 9/11, but the strife felt by him and others who lived through it as well. Working on Church Street, a mere stone’s throw from the World Trade Center, Van Why offers a firsthand account of both plane crashes, the strength of the urge to flee, and the desire to help those who fell in the street even before the buildings collapsed. Sharing these experiences with loved ones in emails, the author was encouraged by friends and family to continue to write about the event. At first, he penned a play, then adapted it, and he continued to produce prose. This collection examines a myriad of subjects relating to the tragedy along with Van Why’s own struggles with PTSD, as each anniversary, the death of Osama bin Laden, and visits to the 9/11 memorial stirred up feelings that were far from buried. Other survivors’ stories are shared as well as physical ailments caused by the toxins released that day. Van Why’s writings are intimate, particularly in capturing the drama of 9/11, recounting a surreal picture of streets littered with snowlike falling paper and the smell of the air, which the author realized was made up of not just burning jet fuel or building materials, but also “among those particles going down into my lungs were those of burnt human remains.” It is a shocking but necessary honesty, illustrating what so many survivors will carry the rest of their lives. Van Why’s play, which would become the basis for his first memoir, is discussed at some length. While writing about writing can become tedious, the insights revealed when audiences approached to divulge their own experiences—“Everyone has a story of 9/11”—make for a strong payoff.
A candid 9/11 account that deftly focuses on those who are still grappling with the tragedy’s challenges.