Book Review: Fall and Rise: The Story of 9/11

book cover rise and fallIt’s been almost 18 years since the twin towers fell in New York City, struck by airplanes holding both innocent passengers and terrorists. Does 18 years make it ‘history’? Much like the slave trade, 9/11 isn’t taught in middle schools, high schools, or college, as far as I know, as part of America’s history. Which is why I found Fall and Rise by Mitchell Zuckoff to be so important, eye-opening, and a book that I cannot recommend enough.

The book is so well researched, detailed, and utterly astonishing that it’s hard to keep in mind the events all actually happened. Stories of the men, women, and children on the ground and in the air are riveting and moving; the author manages to write in a way that is captivating, but doesn’t glorify the tragedy into a spectacle of drama. He makes the stories real– which, of course, they are.

Although it’s the longest book I’ve read all year, I’d happily have read a hundred more pages about the day. The author concedes that it would be impossible to compile every single one of the events that happened on September 11, 2001.

One of the author’s comments in the book’s introduction really stuck with me. He says, “The victims of 9/11 aren’t household names.” We know of the tragedy, in some cases vaguely, but we don’t often talk about the people who lost their lives or loved ones in the attack. That sentence alone made me want to read the book! I want to know their names so they can be remembered by people outside of their family.

One final thought. When I posted online about how much I loved this book, I had a couple of responses to the effect of ‘this is too sad to read’ or ‘I can’t watch or read about 9/11 because it will make me sad’. If you were directly or indirectly affected by the attacks of 9/11 then this book is of course full of triggers. For those of us who weren’t, I think this book is even more important despite and maybe even because the book is ‘sad’. What happened was a tragedy. It’s supposed to make you upset, and that’s not a bad thing. Emotions of sadness and discomfort are so often avoided in our culture and I want to encourage you to lean into the feelings. I think it does a disservice to the victims and their families to avoid reading about them because it’s hard and tears might be shed.

If you were to avoid this one, you’d also miss out on the stories of incredible bravery. Complete strangers helped one another and are bonded for life. Heroes arise in so many unexpected ways throughout the story! Those bright spots are also tear-jerking, don’t get me wrong. They were just as moving as the horrific scenes.

Zuckoff wrote this to pay tribute to the victims and memorialize them, and he carefully documented what happened because of the gravity of 9/11. If we read their stories we keep them in memories, I think it makes what happened less sad.

So, get yourself a copy of Fall and Rise: The Story of 9/11for the upcoming 18th commemoration of September 11, 2001.

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