A remarkable piece of journalism, and a service to history.

FIREFIGHT

INSIDE THE BATTLE TO SAVE THE PENTAGON ON 9/11

An intimate, almost minute-by-minute account of the emergency response to the 9/11 attack on the Pentagon.

Prior to 9/11, the Pentagon’s iconic status easily exceeded that of the World Trade Center. Nevertheless, that date’s dramatic events in New York, particularly the unimaginable collapse of the towers, have since obscured the almost simultaneous assault on the very symbol of America’s armed forces, where, write the authors, “about two million square feet of office space—the equivalent of the entire Empire State Building—was [rendered] uninhabitable due to fire, smoke, and structural damage.” U.S. Army officer and firefighter Creed and U.S. News & World Report journalist Newman (co-author: Bury Us Upside Down: The Misty Pilots and the Secret Battle for the Ho Chi Minh Trail, 2006) remind us of the devastation wrought in Arlington and of the almost superhuman effort required to quell the resulting inferno. From the moment the hijackers flew Flight 77 into the building, killing 59 passengers and crew members and 125 people who worked there, the Pentagon was transformed into a war zone. Using the eyewitness testimony of dozens of people inside and outside the building (a helpful index to many of the recurring names precedes the narrative), the authors painstakingly reconstruct the sequence of events, focusing particularly on the initial 48 hours and the efforts of first-responders. Though a host of government agencies were involved, the authors highlight the firefighters, particularly the Arlington County Fire Department. For these men the Pentagon’s unique design and construction—memorably explicated in Steve Vogel’s The Pentagon: A History: The Untold Story of the Wartime Race to Build the Pentagon—And to Restore it Sixty Years Later, 2007—the intensity of the explosion and the persistent flames combined to produce a “career fire,” the professional challenge of a lifetime. Thoroughly, but never tediously, the authors demonstrate how the firefighters—despite private fears and worries, exhaustion, dehydration and smoke inhalation, multiple threats of renewed attack, competing priorities of law enforcement and various military and political exigencies—responded brilliantly to the horror.

A remarkable piece of journalism, and a service to history.

Pub Date: May 27, 2008

ISBN: 978-0-89141-905-1

Page Count: 496

Publisher: Presidio/Random

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2008

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

NIGHT

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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A moving meditation on mortality by a gifted writer whose dual perspectives of physician and patient provide a singular...

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WHEN BREATH BECOMES AIR

A neurosurgeon with a passion for literature tragically finds his perfect subject after his diagnosis of terminal lung cancer.

Writing isn’t brain surgery, but it’s rare when someone adept at the latter is also so accomplished at the former. Searching for meaning and purpose in his life, Kalanithi pursued a doctorate in literature and had felt certain that he wouldn’t enter the field of medicine, in which his father and other members of his family excelled. “But I couldn’t let go of the question,” he writes, after realizing that his goals “didn’t quite fit in an English department.” “Where did biology, morality, literature and philosophy intersect?” So he decided to set aside his doctoral dissertation and belatedly prepare for medical school, which “would allow me a chance to find answers that are not in books, to find a different sort of sublime, to forge relationships with the suffering, and to keep following the question of what makes human life meaningful, even in the face of death and decay.” The author’s empathy undoubtedly made him an exceptional doctor, and the precision of his prose—as well as the moral purpose underscoring it—suggests that he could have written a good book on any subject he chose. Part of what makes this book so essential is the fact that it was written under a death sentence following the diagnosis that upended his life, just as he was preparing to end his residency and attract offers at the top of his profession. Kalanithi learned he might have 10 years to live or perhaps five. Should he return to neurosurgery (he could and did), or should he write (he also did)? Should he and his wife have a baby? They did, eight months before he died, which was less than two years after the original diagnosis. “The fact of death is unsettling,” he understates. “Yet there is no other way to live.”

A moving meditation on mortality by a gifted writer whose dual perspectives of physician and patient provide a singular clarity.

Pub Date: Jan. 19, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-8129-8840-6

Page Count: 248

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Sept. 30, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2015

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