Another 9/11 History in Review: Fall and Rise

October 26, 2021 Uncategorized 4 ★★★★

Another 9/11 History in Review: Fall and RiseTitle: Fall and Rise: The Story of 9/11
Author: Mitchell Zuckoff
Source: Library
Links: Bookshop (affiliate link) |Goodreads

Summary: Another comprehensive, moving account of 9/11, although one that could do with slightly less editorializing.

I debated about whether to read two chunksters about 9/11 in a row, but decided to go for it because I think I retain more when I read multiple books on a topic. It was also interesting to contrast this narrative nonfiction account of 9/11 with the oral history in The Only Plane in the Sky. The bulk of this book is two sections with “fall” in the title, one about the people on the planes and one about the people at each impact site. The last section, called “Rise From the Ashes”, was a short description of where people were in the months following 9/11.

It was fascinating to see the strengths and weaknesses of this narrative nonfiction approach compared to an oral history. The main strength of this book was that it gave a lot more context. In particular, the oral history glossed over the confusion of the FAA and the military during the initial hijacking. I don’t think this was exclusively due to differences in form. There were conversations quoted in this book that the oral history could have used to show the mistakes made. Likewise, the oral history doesn’t reveal that a passenger on Flight 77, which was flown into the Pentagon, knew about the planes that hit the Twin Towers. The omissions are stark enough that it feels to me like the oral history is intentionally engaging in some revisionist history.

In favor of the oral history, I found it was more emotional, because it felt more intimate and immediate. I also thought the author did a better job letting events speak for themselves. Sometimes the author of this book really beat us over the head with how sad things were or left us on a cliffhanger. That felt like an unnecessary attempt to amp up the drama or the pathos of a story that just doesn’t need the help. There were some gruesome details I thought this book could have done without as well. I could see an argument that they are part of the true story, like the confusion around the hijackings. However, I don’t think they added to my understanding in the same way. Nor did they contribute to remembering the victims and heroes of 9/11 as I think they deserve to be remembered.

Difficult though these books were, I’d actually highly recommend the experience of reading them together. They’re complementary accounts that each highlight different aspects of the same event. If it weren’t for the problems with missing information, I’d recommend the oral history more. It was incredible to hear so much of the story in the words of the people who were there. With the omissions in that story though, I definitely think it’s better to pair it with a more comprehensive account.

4 Responses to “Another 9/11 History in Review: Fall and Rise”

  1. Helen Murdoch

    I think it’s so interesting to compare at least 2 books on the same subject, both of which are “objective.” In reality, each author brings their own biases to the book. Thank you for your comparison of the two 9/11 books.

    • DoingDewey

      I don’t often read several books on the same topic, but I always enjoy it when I do! I feel like I get more out of each individual book that way and I think I’m more likely to remember what I learned too. I do also have a problem where I tend to assume books are reliable and from subtle biases to things that are just plain wrong, that’s not always true!

  2. Lesley in OR

    This sounds like another good read about a very difficult subject. I’ve only read one nonfiction work on 9/11 (The Only Plane in the Sky), but if you’re interested in a novel with 9/11 as a backdrop, I highly recommend The Usual Rules by Joyce Maynard. I read it in 2005 and think it might be time for a reread. Here’s the link to my review, if you’re interested.
    Lesley in OR recently posted…Nonfiction November 2021My Profile

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