A Decade of Hope
Stories of Grief and Endurance from 9/11 Families and Friends
On the tenth anniversary of 9/11, a portrait of tragedy, survival, and healing from the author of The New York Times bestseller Report from Ground Zero.
This year marks the tenth anniversary of the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, an occasion that is sure to be observed around the world. But among the memorials, political speeches, and news editorials, the most pressing consideration- and often the most overlooked-is the lives and well-being of the 9/11 first responders, their families, and the victims' families over the past decade.
Dennis Smith, a former firefighter and the author of the bestselling Report from Ground Zero, addresses this important topic in a series of interviews with the heroes and families of those most affected by the tragedy either through feats of bravery in the rescue efforts or heroic bearing up in the face of unimaginable loss. Smith provides an intimate look at a terrible moment in history and its challenging and difficult aftermath, allowing these survivors to share their stories of loss, endurance, and resilience in their own words. A Decade of Hope is an honest and vitally important look at a decade in the lives of those for whom a national tragedy was a devastatingly personal ordeal.
Never before in American history had our peace and well-being been so suddenly, fully, and unalterably changed as they were on the morning of September 11, 2001. On that Tuesday morning all Americans suffered, and many around the world suﬀered with us. The suﬀering grew more intense as the days turned into weeks and the weeks into months, as the powerful images of search and recovery, funerals, and honors were presented to us. Now, as those months have grown into the accumulated years of a decade, most of us are still very much haunted by the horror of that day, and we continue to feel the pain within that memory.
But for thousands of Americans—the spouses, children, parents, siblings, and loved ones of the 2,974 men, women, and children killed in the World Trade Center, in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, and in the Pentagon— memory can be a cruel master.
How have they gotten through this time, these people who directly experienced the loss of someone vitally loved? How have they dealt with such a public and historically important loss, a loss that they were reminded of each day in newspapers and magazines and on television? How have they faced the absence of a family member at every milestone celebration— birthdays, graduations, engagements, marriages?
How have they rebuilt their lives? How have they found the inner resilience to transcend the grief of their loss—and the pain of wondering what might have been for the individuals lost that day? I wondered if the suﬀering of 9/11 became an obstacle for every thought that was meant to be hopeful, every plan to build for tomorrow. Was every thought framed within the shadows of terrible loss? Was peace possible for these families, or was there a continuing maelstrom of sadness?
I have spent a life working in the emergency services, from a time of great social unrest in the South Bronx to that ﬁeld of absolute destruction at the World Trade Center on 9/11. I arrived at Ground Zero immediately following the fall of the North Tower, and I stayed for ﬁfty-six days. I attended dozens of funerals through those early months of September, October, and November of 2001, so along with the thousands who lined up outside those churches and temples I came to share as much as was possible the depth of family grief.
What I sought to discover in the interviews in this book is how these individuals found the courage and the hopefulness to move forward in their lives, to ensure the containment of their families, to grieve and to honor, and to understand the consequence of this very visible tragedy on their future. And, for many, to see how they were able to transform their grief into productive ends.
Faith, compassion, and charity are required to attain the greatest of virtues—hope. We need to believe that the world of tomorrow will be a good world, populated by moral and well-meaning people. It is why we have eulogies—to celebrate the good of a life, for we rely on the memory of that good to serve us in molding a life of decency as we step into our future.
It is easy to say that we must believe in the goodness of our future, and that our collective future can be better than our past. But it is not easy to live with the memory of loss even when building a better tomorrow. At the heart of it all, it takes moral character and goodness to go on."Heart-rending oral histories of World Trade Center survivors and their families."
-New York Times
"The stories thus blossom with a kind of ragged, inadvertent poetry-the poetry that grows up naturally around honest and heartfelt words..."
"A stirring tapestry of real-life heroes."
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