A meticulously delineated, detailed, graphic history of the events of 9/11 in New York City, at the Pentagon, and in Pennsylvania.
Working at the Boston Globe as an investigative journalist, Zuckoff (Journalism/Boston Univ.; 13 Hours: The Inside Account of What Really Happened In Benghazi, 2014, etc.) spent months after 9/11 publishing pieces on the tragedy’s victims and their families and friends. He decided to revisit the personal sagas so that future generations of readers will fully understand this watershed moment in American history. The author divides the book into three sections: what happened inside the cabins and cockpits of the four hijacked planes; what happened on the ground at the Twin Towers, the Pentagon, and the Pennsylvania countryside; and reports on what happened to some of the survivors after 9/11. Zuckoff mostly avoids references to the hijackers’ possible motivations as well as speculation on why the government failed to halt the sometimes-amateurish terrorist plot despite multiple warnings from alert sources. The author also eschews lengthy commentary on the massive reduction in civil liberties in the U.S. as governments at all levels implemented drastic policies to halt future terrorist attacks. In each of the three sections, Zuckoff offers a cross-section of widely representative individuals and then builds the relentlessly compelling narrative around those real-life protagonists. Despite the story’s sprawling cast, which could have sabotaged a book by a less-skilled author, Zuckoff ably handles all of the complexities. Even readers who might normally balk at reliving 9/11 and its aftermath are quite likely to find the accounts of gruesome deaths, seemingly miraculous survivals, and courageous first responders difficult to set aside for an emotional break. In two appendices, the author provides a “timeline of key events” and a list of “the nearly three thousand names as they appear inscribed in bronze on the 9/11 Memorial in New York.”
Zuckoff did not set out to write a feel-good book, and the subject matter is unquestionably depressing at times. Nonetheless, as contemporary history, Fall and Rise is a clear and moving success.