Interview with author of That Day In September, Artie Van Why
SB: Starting out on a less serious note, after writing the script and seeing it preformed, do you have plans to continue writing plays?
AVW: I really don't. Yet I've learned that you never know what might happen. I never thought I'd write a play to begin with. It just seems the circumstances led to that happening. If I ever do write another play, I'm pretty sure it would be autobiographical and another one man play.
SB: This book is very well written, witty, and candid in a way that is hard to find. Do you see yourself possibly writing more books in the future?
AVW: My answer is very similar to the above question. I had not set out to write a book. I do think there is another book inside me that could be written; about learning to live with trauma. These ten years since 9/11 have been a very emotional journey; one I'm sure others could relate to. I would like to write about that journey.
SB: Other then a tribute or a piece of remembrance, did you find writing this book was a form of catharsis?
AVW: It definitely was. I found that putting what I was feeling down in words came me more clarity about what it was I was experiencing. I wasn't writing, initially, to produce a play or book. I was writing because it's what I needed to do to process everything.
SB: On page 66, you mention your pants and shoes from that day and how you placed them in the top of your closet. Do you still have them? Have you since taken them down and remembered what happened?
AVW: I do still have them and, yes, I have taken them down; recently. I couple of weeks ago I spent the whole day with a reporter and photographer from the BBC (British Broadcasting Corporation). My story of 9/11 and my life afterwards is going to be featured on the BBC website to commemorate the anniversary. At one point they asked if I was up to taking the box down and opening it. I felt I was. It was very strange looking at them.... they didn't bring back a rush of memories that I couldn't handle. I was struck more by the shoes because they definitely show the wear and tear on them from that day; with all the scuff marks.
SB: Even though you mention what the police officers felt, do you feel that your life was saved by running from Building 5 after being ushered in?
AVW: Yes I do.
SB: If you had to do it over again, what would you have done differently?
AVW: I would have looked at the work tag that was around the injured man in the street I tried to help. I wish, to this day, that I had read his name and where he worked. I often think that I would then be able to find his family and tell them that he wasn't alone; that there were people with him. I say that because, in all probability I doubt if he survived his injury.
SB: After firsthand experience with a tragedy of this magnitude, do you still find yourself trying to cope with it 10 years after the fact?
AVW: Oh yes. I will probably think of 9/11 everyday (as I do now) to some extent. I'm finding though that this past year has been a time of moving out of mourning and back into living my life. If I were go into detail right now of why that is I would be writing a whole chapter or two that could go into that next book to be written.
SB: What do you want people to remember on the 10th anniversary?
AVW: I wish, more than anything, they could remember how we bonded as a nation. All the barriers we create to separate us from "others" were taken down. There was no political left or right. We truly were all one. Especially now, politically, when it seems to be nothing but a war of words... I wish they could remember we have the capability of being more than that.
Title: That Day In September
Author: Artie Van Why
Pages: Paperback, 84
Opening Lines: "I don't remember which came first, the shudder of the building or the loud sound. They probably came at the same time."
"We all have our stories of where we were the morning of September 11, 2001. This is one of them. In That Day in September Artie Van Why gives an eyewitness account of that fateful morning. From the moment he heard " a loud boom" in his office across from the World Trade Center, to stepping out onto the street, Artie vividly transports the reader back to the day that changed our lives and our country forever. By sharing his thoughts, fears, and hopes, Artie expresses what it was like to be in New York City in the weeks and months following. The reader comes away from That Day in September with not only a more intimate understanding of the events of that day, but with a personal glimpse of how one person's life was dramatically changed forever."
~ Jacket copy
Thoughts: *deep sigh* This was a hard book to read and an even harder book to review. When faced with something like this, how can you so easily dissect it, analyze it, and determine it's value and merit? This book has left me utterly speechless; completely at a loss for words.
"One of the pieces of falling debris seemed to be moving. It was moving, and it wasn't debris. It was a person falling, arms and legs waving madly." (22)
This book was moving. With the images still playing in my mind from watching the new cast nearly 10 years ago, Artie's story adds flesh, detail, and humanity to the tragedy. What makes his story more profound is his personal experiences before the occurrences of that nightmare.
After working for several years in a smaller law firm in NYC, the company Artie was a part of decided to merge with a large entity. This merger would place them on the 23rd floor of a building across the street from the World Trade Center. Living in NYC for over a decade, Artie had experience with the Center, but had never fully enjoyed it. Starting a few short months before the tragedy, Artie was given a chance to fully experience his new surroundings. He talks candidly about the coffee vendor across the street from Building 5, enjoying his paper and morning coffee on a stone bench in front of the World Trade Center fountain, his favorite bookstore in Building 5, and noontime concerts in the summer that would draw tourists and local business people. While I never had the opportunity to see the Trade Center while it was still standing, Artie's words made me feel as though I had.
Being allowed to experience these happy moments with the author opens the reader up to a new level of understanding and an access not granted by the television screen. Reading about Artie's horrifying ordeal of watching person after person falling from the Towers onto a waiting pile of bodies, his run through the streets with over survivors, etc., puts the whole incident at a completely different level.
"I can't bear to think of how many spouses, partners, parents, or friends received a call from a loved one that morning, telling them they were okay and were leaving their offices and never came home." (53)
This book was moving and riveting. To say I didn't read it with a box of tissues nearby would be a lie. Even though I was moved by the events at the time, this story brought me to a deeper level of understanding and compassion. If you really want to understand the events of 9/11, read this book. Honestly, we owe it to ourselves to remember and not forget.
Rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
Where Was I Then:
On the morning of September 11, 2001, my mom called me before my first class. I was completely oblivious to the happens of the early morning hours (you have to , I live in MST, which is 2 hours behind NYC). She told me what happened.
Walking into the Classroom Building on the University of Wyoming campus, every TV and radio was on. Everyone was crowded around, watching the scene unfold. Unable to take the time to watching my TV, I stopped for a few moments to take in the images. It was distressing, to say the least.
During that first class -- Introduction to the Old Testament -- our professor decided to discuss the nature of good and evil. It was interesting to think about it in relation to what we were learning at the time. If you ask me now, I couldn't tell you what all we talked about. But it was reverent.
That afternoon, I went over to my parents' house and watched the recast footage with my mother. I huddled on the couch and cried. The next day, I fasted and prayed for all the souls that had yet to be recovered.
Where were you? Leave a comment and tell me your story.