In the weeks leading up to this year’s 9/11 anniversary, I began reading Dennis Smith's Report from Ground Zero. I bought my copy when it was first released in 2002 but was only able to read about a third of it. The writing was quite good, but the devastating memories were still too fresh, too painful.
When I visited Ground Zero in May 2004, I discovered that two years and eight months still wasn't enough time to truly process the horrific events of that September day. With no connections to New York City, I wept for the thousands of strangers who were lost, the emergency responders who died trying to save others, and the family, friends, and co-workers who had to carry on in the aftermath.
Fifteen years later, I finally felt I could finish Smith's account of the day the towers fell, the painstaking recovery efforts that followed, and the memories of 343 firefighters who never came home. It still hurt, but it also brought a sense of closure after so many years of avoiding the discomfort. Smith's book is an honest and moving tribute that should be read by anyone who has ever been, or who aspires to be, a firefighter.
This year I also watched some of the many 9/11 documentaries on TV. Not a bad one in the bunch, but CNN’s “9/11: Fifteen Years Later” dovetailed nicely with Smith’s book to provide a true insider’s perspective of what it was like in and around the World Trade Center following the attacks.
FDNY firefighter James Hanlon, who is now an award-winning filmmaker, director, and producer, was a member of Ladder Company 1, Engine 7 working with French filmmakers Gedeon and Jules Naudet on a documentary about a probationary firefighter. On the morning of September 11, while on scene at a gas leak in downtown Manhattan, Jules Naudet captured some of the only existing footage of the first hijacked jet as it crashed into the north tower of the World Trade Center. The video taken by the Naudet brothers, who were in different locations through much of the initial chaos, shows firefighters scrambling to save people and ultimately themselves, and then trying to come to grips with devastation of unimaginable scale. The resulting footage is in turns chilling, horrifying, sad, inspiring, and profoundly moving.
To read more about “9/11: Fifteen Years Later” go to:
The effects of 9/11 are still felt today. Thousands of people battle cancers related to their work at Ground Zero. Families have had to move on without their loved ones. The country has been at war for 15 years, and the shadow of terrorism now hangs over daily life.
We must never forget those who died at the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and aboard Flight 93 near Shanksville, PA on September 11, 2001.