The book is short--only 87 pages--and Van Why manages to give enough background information for the reader to get a feel for who he is and how he ended up where he did that day without overshadowing the rest of the story. The first few chapters switch back and forth between the author's background story and the events of September 11th, and I didn't feel like it flowed well; I think he would have done better to stick with a strict chronological telling of the story, but this was a minor sticking point with me, nothing irrecoverable.
I think this story will resonate with a lot of people. People who weren't there can still relate to the feelings of shock and disbelief, the helplessness we all felt watching the events unfold on the television. I think at some point, we've all wondered (and then failed to adequately imagine) what it was like to be there...and then put it out of our minds and gone about the rest of our day. Artie Van Why was there, and he wasn't able to put it out of his mind. Initially, he performed his story as a one-man theater piece; this was his way of telling his story, getting it all out there, connecting with others who couldn't forget. Eventually, he turned his story into a book, in part to make sure that the rest of us don't forget either.
Something that surprised me was that the author managed to bring this story home for me in a way that nothing else ever really has, and it was through the small detail of describing the World Trade Center plaza where he used to take his lunch breaks or drink his morning coffee. I've never been to New York, so the only mental images I have are of the hustle and bustle of New York--the tall buildings, all the people on the sidewalks, the cabs, Wall Street. With all its millions of fashionable, never-sleeping, corporate-lunching people, New York always seemed so other-worldly. Eating lunch in a plaza, enjoying a few minutes of sunshine, watching the tourists take in the sights that you've come to regard as part of everyday life? I could relate to that; I finally had a way to relate New York life to my island life and suddenly I could really imagine the contrast of living your life one minute and the world falling down around you the next in a way that I hadn't been able to before.
While this book certainly serves as a reminder of the tragedy of that day, I was struck by the fact that it also serves as a reminder of how much we all pulled together as a nation. Although Van Why didn't set out to chronicle any particular heroism, he still managed to highlight the ways in which the citizens of New York reached out to one another to show support in a thousand little ways. Everybody came together as neighbors, as fellow citizens and united in support of one another. Looking around at the political climate in the country right now, I feel like we have fallen so far from that, and Van Why's book serves as a good reminder that we're all in this together and maybe it wouldn't hurt to take a little better care of each other while we're all still here.
As the 10th anniversary of the September 11th attacks approaches, I think this would be a fitting book to read as a tribute to those who died, to those who lost loved ones, to those who tried to save them, and to all the people who were there that day to witness all the tragedy first-hand.
Thank you to Artie Van Why for sending me a copy of his book. For more information about the author and his book, you can visit his Facebook page, his Amazon author page, and his Goodreads page.