This article was originally published in the Weekend Books section of the San Diego Union-Tribune.
Revisiting 9/11 is never easy, but for the 10th anniversary of the tragedy, the publishing world has released a quiet stream of commemorative nonfiction. Though the discourse surrounding the terrorist attacks eventually turned toward politics and war, this selection of books brings the focus back to stories of heroism, loss and recovery at the heart of the fallen Twin Towers.
“Project Rebirth”, Dr. Robin Stern and Courtney E. Martin, Dutton; 228 pages; $25.95
“Project Rebirth” is concerned with just that: What it looks like to emotionally and spiritually rebuild after devastation, examined through the lens of a tragedy that is both personal and national, 9/11. It’s a collaboration between journalist Courtney E. Martin and psychoanalyst Dr. Robin Stern and a companion to the documentary film “Rebirth.”
The book looks at the stories of eight individuals who dealt with serious grief following 9/11, combining Martin’s knack for storytelling with Stern’s experience as a clinician — though the book never gets too technical, focusing instead on the testimonies of survivors.
“Reluctant Hero”, Michael Benfante and Dave Hollande, Skyhorse Publishing; 238 pages; $24.95
In the wake of 9/11, many heard the story of Michael Benfante, a telecommunications company manager in the North Tower who carried a woman in a wheelchair down 68 flights of stairs.
After a video camera caught Benfante as he exited the building, his story went public, landing him on Oprah’s couch and in The New York Times.
But living up to a word like “hero” is not easy, especially with the horrific image of the imploding tower committed to memory. Benfante’s memoir, “Reluctant Hero,” is a humbling and courageous one, detailing the struggle of an ordinary man who was forced to find strength he had only read about in books.
“What We Saw,” CBS News, Simon & Schuster; 139 pages; $29.95
This recently updated 2002 compilation of CBS News’ initial coverage of 9/11 — Sept. 11 through Sept. 17 — is a fascinating reminder of the shock and confusion the country felt at the time, compiling transcripts of television and radio reports, essays, accounts of survivors and black-and-white photographs with an essay by Time Magazine’s Joe Klein to offer a new perspective on the tragedy.
“A Place of Remembrance,” Allison Blais and Lynn Rasic, National Geographic; 227 pages; $19.95
The official book of the national 9/11 memorial, “A Place of Remembrance” not only honors those who were lost, but also details the history of the World Trade Center — its planning and construction in the 1960s, a Feb. 1993, bombing, the terrorist attacks on 9/11 and the planning and construction of the memorial — a cycle of rebirth we hope never to be repeated.