Recollections and reflections from reporters who covered one or another aspect of September 11, pulled under one roof by Bull (Come Out Fighting, 2002, etc.) and newcomer Erman.
The editors dug for print and broadcast talent to include among these 28 pieces describing so outsized a story. Writers come from mainstream publications (New York Times, Washington Post, Philadelphia Inquirer), from smaller ones (the Staten Island Advance, the Stamford Advocate, the high school Stuyvesant Standard), and even from Columbia’s School of Journalism. There is only a smattering of “describing the indescribable” comments, since after all describing is the whole point; and only a few desperately grabby leads (“All I hear is silence”); or moments of self-righteous resignation (“Today, when I return to Ground Zero I see commodities. . . . Tragedy for sale. It’s the American way, I guess”). Mostly, these are crackerjack portraits of what it was like to be at the scene; struggles with the question of intrusiveness and decency in talking with people who lost family members; and examples of the unexpected emotional fallout after witnessing such devastation—the flashbacks and nightmares. Some writers even manage a bright line or two. One young reporter, fielding a call: “ ‘I’m fine, Dad. I’m like a mile away from it,’ I said, slightly annoyed. Didn’t he know I had a deadline?” Another, expressing what it was like to be part of this history: “I cannot think of a way to say this that is not perverse but I felt an intense passion in the hours after the holocaust, an exaltation. I felt alone at the enter of the world; all details became crucial and iconic.” And, typically, the questions: “What was the value. . . . My job seemed ghoulish, feeding on corpses and destruction.”
These are pieces that bring optimism for the future of journalism if such decent, thoughtful, able writers will be among its practitioners.