Friday, September 9, 2011

A Review of "That Day in September" [60]

That Day in September by Artie Van Why, ISBN 978-1411683150
June 23, 2006, 108 pages.

As the 10th anniversary of the attacks of 9-11 comes close, we can not miss the stories on TV, in the press, in books. Those who survived, those who died, how the buildings were destroyed, how they are being rebuilt. This book by Mr. Van Why adds one more personal story to the mix and, while it is not unique, it is a story that is powerful and moving and most certainly worth reading.

Van Why was not injured, physically at least, in the World Trade Center attacks. He was not, by his own words, a hero. He did not lose someone he loved dearly. And perhaps that is why his story is so interesting. He is so many of us, the common man just on the edge of the disaster, and although his experience was a lot closer than most of ours, to share what he experienced during and after the attacks makes it all very real for us again.

Raised in Maryland, Van Why had come to NYC years before to pursue a career in acting but ended up giving up on his dream and working in a more secure, better paid job at a law firm. A law firm that moved into new offices very near to the World Trade Center not long before that fateful day.
He talks about hearing and feeling the first plane hit, running outside as everyone did, in confusion, not really believing what was happening. Until the horror became impossible to deny. He went into the World Trade Center plaza, a place that he says that had been such a happy place for so many at lunchtimes, a sunny oasis, to now find it covered with debris, paper falling like snow. And then the worst, seeing the bodies, people falling to their deaths rather than die in the fires...and knowing that he was helpless to do anything.

He ran, then walked, along with thousands, silently, back to his apartment, to find desperate messages from his parents, his friends, hoping he was alive. He talks about not being able to look at the newspapers or TV, his mind so full of his own images. He talks about the kindness of strangers, how the city came together and both figuratively and literally opened it's arms to those suffering.

No, it is not a unique story, but as Van Why tells it, it is a very good story. His empathy, his compassion, makes his story memorable. As he says, he wrote it as a tribute to those who died that day. He wrote to honor those who ran in to help when everyone else was running for their lives, like the volunteer fireman in his own office who ran to the towers to help and was never seen again. To the two young men who lived in his building, young guys, just out of collage, who names he did not even know, who died that day. To the woman I mention ever year, my teacher from my little high school in suburban NJ. She was at the World Trade center for a business meeting and died that day 10 years ago, Mrs. Susan Murray.
God rest her soul.

Many, especially those who lost loved ones that day, may ask how something like this could happen. They wonder where God was that day, and I will leave you will leave you with Mr. Van Why's answer to that question.
"What I had been a witness to when I looked up at those burning towers was the ultimate evil that man is capable of. The evidence of just how deep hatred could run, how far it could go.
But I had also been a witness to something else that day-down on the ground. I witnessed the ultimate goodness of man, the evidence of how strong courage could be, to what length it would go.
I believe God was in the hands of everyone who reached out to help someone else. He was in the arms of people on the streets as they embraced one another. He was in the tears of strangers who cried together. He was in all the lives that were given in the line of duty, in the acts of heroism. He was in the hearts of the people across the country who, as they watched the horror from afar, felt compassion."

A very good little book, that you might read in an hour or two, but which, I think, you may remember far longer.

My thanks to the author for providing me with a copy of this book.


  1. I think we were all injured a little bit that day. This sounds like an important book.

  2. Sounds like a good one, honest, touching. A man whose life was changed by that day, even if he wasn't injured or a hero.

  3. Sounds like a total kleenex-boxer, to me!

  4. This was a great little book, wasn't it? I don't accept many books for review, but this one got through. His story touched me.

  5. I'm sure this was moving and a wonderful tribute to all the heroes who showed up that day. Thanks for sharing.

  6. Sounds like an important book to read at this time. I am watching the anniversary shows as I catch up with blogs tonight.

    Have a good week Caite.


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