8 September 2011

That Day in September by Artie Van Why

1985: I was a young, Innocent, immortal University student one minute and the next, one of my good friends got on a plane to go to India for a family wedding. She didn't make it to that wedding. The flight was Air India flight 182 and it blew up over the ocean. 329 passengers and crew were killed; 270 of them were Canadian; one of them was my friend, Chandra Khandelwal age 21. That was my introduction to terrorism.

2001: We all knew that terrorism was alive and well in Europe but no one thought it would come back to the Americas. Then planes started crashing into the World Trade Centre Buildings in New York; the Pentagon; the Pennsylvania countryside, and terrorism came to the USA. About 3,000 people died that day and many more were injured.

We see the pictures on TV or in the newspaper but our minds censor the feelings, smells, thoughts, sounds so that we can absorb without joining the ranks of the damaged. Artie Van Why didn't have that option because he didn't see the pictures on TV or read the newspaper accounts. Instead, he stepped out of his office building across the street from the twin towers and walked into Hell.

'That Day in September (a personal remembrance of 9/11)" is a journal of sorts; an attempt to sort through the images, feelings and disarray of a life, a world, forever changed. Mr. Van Why's book is powerful in its simplicity. He doesn't try to sensationalise the events he witnessed. He tells it like it was. He doesn't ask for pity. He simply explains how he was affected and what the world around him was like on September 11, 2001 and the days, weeks and months following.

I appreciate that Artie Van Why stays focused. He doesn't try to tug at our heartstrings by adding lots of sappy observations. That is not to say that I didn't cry my way through a lot of this little book. I did. The starkness of the narration allows the reader to feel the starkness of the day. The comparisons of before, during and after are surreal. Exactly as I remember thinking the event was as I watched the footage.

I was also impressed with the honesty of Artie`s remembrance. He didn`t try to enhance his actions that day or exaggerate the connections he had, or didn`t have, with the victims and survivors. He simply told it like it was. I can`t even imagine how hard that might be to do.

The only issue I have with the hype around 9/11 is that it tends to overshadow the fact that terrorist acts are taking place every day all over the world. Innocent people are dying while going about their daily activities. I'm not saying we shouldn't remember, or that we shouldn't build memorials, but in the few other books I have read about the events of that day in September, I have been left with the feeling the authors didn't recognise that it was one, albeit the biggest one, of a plethora of terrorist actions that occurred before and after that day. I hope people remember that each life counts. And I want to thank this author for not going there. This book is his personal remembrance of finding himself in the middle of a terrorist attack. I didn't once feel like he was negating other attacks or deaths. He was just telling his story. My conclusion: highly recommended reading.

1 comment:

  1. I liked that last paragraph, cos yes it happens every day. So many people dying


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