No one of my generation will likely forget where they were when the cowardly jihadists flew their planes into the World Trade Center North and South towers. It is one of those moments seared into our memories further ingrained as we watched in horror as some of our fellow citizens chose to jump to their deaths rather than burn and finally watching the towers fall.
American Ground is about what happened afterwards and behind the scenes that most of saw less and less of as the media figured we were tired of the whole thing. Author William Langewiesche was the only author granted total access to Ground Zero spending months there at first with the “recue” effort and finally with the recovery. He was one of the ones crawling through the rubble as the massive task of “unbuilding” the towers took place.
“The underground was the Trade Center’s inner realm, the destination at the end of a progression that with each step took people closer to the heart of the ruins; across the perimeter, to the edge of the pile, onto its surface, and then down into its insides. It was also simply an intriguing place to be; and less macabre than outsiders supposed. The dead lay nearby, but for the most part they were buried in the inaccessible cores – debris so tightly compressed that even the rats, said to be arriving from all over downtown, were unable to burrow in (or so we told ourselves).
You get to meet some of the characters who, though behind the national scene, were the ones responsible for the removal of the thousands of tons of debris. You get a grim glimpse into the battles between the services (FDNY, Port Authority, and NYPD) over the recovery efforts. And learn some disheartening things about riots, looting, a great gold story, and several near-tragedies that I had never heard reported. In a sentence Langewiesche strips the scene down bare and gets you inside. I have read several of his books and I am always amazed at his depth and involvement and the quality of his writing. American Ground is no different.