We’re Not Leaving – A Review

Recently, I was asked to review the book We’re Not Leaving: 9/11 Responders Tell Their Stories of Courage, Sacrifice, and Renewal  by Dr. Benjamin J. Luft.  The book is a collection of stories from responders to the terrorist attacks on New York City on September 11, 2001.  Broken into five parts from more than thirty unique points of view, the book starts with the story of responders on the day of the attacks from the viewpoint of the police, EMTs, and firefighters.  The second section of the book deals with the days that followed the attacks and those who participated int he search for survivors.  Part three continues to deal with those who participated in the recovery efforts in the weeks and months following September 11th.  Part four was one of the most difficult for me to read.  It discussed the services, both mental and physical provided both at the site and away from it.  While their contributions were vital, I can only imagine the damage, heartache, and despair that they experienced and witnessed.  In the book’s final section, Renewal, talks about organizations established and contributions made for the long term benefit of the responders who participated throughout the ordeal.

We’re Not Leaving is a well written, easy to read first person narrative account of the experiences of a number of different people connected to the 9/11 attacks.  Some powerful words and stories were shared, the most moving for me were some of the statements made by “Marvin” a paramedic who survived both collapses.  In my opinion, he sums up the struggles experienced by the EMS responders who participated that day:

“And one of the things that I do resent with this whole 9/11 thing is – and no disrespect to the cops or firefighters, but just so we can make a point – everything was about the cops and the firefighters, and they act like the EMS (Emergency Medical Services) people were all on a fishing trip that day.  And I did not her anybody screaming for a cop or a fireman.  All I heard people screaming for were medics.  And even the cops and firefighters were screaming for medics.  But yet, the way the media plays this, the EMS people – especially the ones with the private hospitals – were constantly left out in the cold.”

His frustrations are clear, but his continued tone throughout the chapter is one of disregard for this message.  Sure, he felt somewhat ignored, but it does not seem to matter to “Marvin” because he knew what he did that day, and that is enough for him.

One of the other things that amazed me was the intense dedication displayed throughout all of the stories, especially those surrounding the initial response.  In story after story, people talk about how they thought they were dead, or were not going to make it, and regardless of that, they pressed on, and did their duty fearlessly without regard for their own personal safety.  Their accounts were extremely humble as well with many downplaying what they had done, stating that they were just “doing their jobs.”

The other story that I found extremely interesting was one out of Part Four about an NYPD detective named “Ralph”.  He talks about how he escorted a young girl from the crowd surrounding Ground Zero right down to the Pit so she could see what had happened there with her own eyes.  “Ralph” tells her he is doing it because when she got to be his age, people would try and tell her that what happened that day wasn’t that bad.  It was quite a powerful message to share with the young girl.

If you are interested in reading a book from the provider’s point of view, We’re Not Leaving is the one for you.  It is blunt, no punches are pulled, and it is told purely from the viewpoint of the provider.  The narrative style in which each of the stories is written give the reader the feeling that they are actually sitting across from the subject of the chapter listening to their recount of their experiences.  I am glad I had a chance to read and review this book, it was worth the time spent doing so.  A lot has changed over the last ten years, and will change in the years to come, but a source like this keeps the history alive for years to come.

CLICK HERE to order the book from Amazon.com.