Skip to content

9/11: Remembrances and Book Recommendations

September 11, 2019


Of 9/11, Some Quiet Remembrances and Two Book Recommendations


by Alice Jane-Marie Massa



Since this Wednesday’s WORDWALK posting coincides with 9/11, I am sharing two book recommendations–one revisited and one new–as well as my own recollections of September 11, 2001, when I was teaching at Milwaukee Area Technical College.


Shortly after the 9/11 disaster, I heard, on the news, stories of two guide dogs who were in the World Trade Center during that shattering day.  One decade later, in the autumn of 2011, thanks to the Hadley School for the Blind (now Hadley Institute for the Blind in Winnetka, Illinois), I had the opportunity to hear speak a truly awesome individual—Michael Hingson, who, with his guide dog Roselle, survived the tragedy of 9/11.  From his office on the 78th floor of Tower One, Mr. Hingson and his yellow Labrador Roselle safely went down 1,463 stairs, then met other challenges before arriving home safely together.  Ten years after 9/11, Mr. Hingson’s remarkable book—Thunder Dog:  The True Story of a Blind Man, His Guide Dog, and the Triumph of Trust at Ground Zero—was published in hard cover by Thomas Nelson Publishers.  I highly recommend this book.  The commercial audio version of Thunder Dog is a powerful , mesmerizing, and memorable listening experience.  (For patrons of the Talking Book and Braille Library of the National Library Service of the Library of Congress, this book is available as DB 73300.)


Secondly, I highly recommend a 2014 fictional book , a pivotal part of which focuses on 9/11.  In A Fall of Marigolds, Susan Meissner uses a century-old scarf beautifully decorated with marigolds to weave together four storylines from Ellis Island, the 1911 Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire, 9/11, and one decade after 9/11.  Through Ms. Meissner’s endearing characters, the connecting of the storylines is expertly crafted into an intriguing novel that gives the reader another perspective of the 9/11 disaster.  (For patrons of the Talking Book and Braille Library, the order number is DB 88683.)


* * *


NOTE:  The following memoir, which I converted into prose yesterday, was originally a poem posted on WORDWALK on September 10, 2013.  Revisiting the piece six years later, I decided a prose form seems more appropriate today.


Remembrances of 9/11—The Day the World Changed


by Alice Jane-Marie Massa



On September 11, 2001—when the world, hearts, and fears changed-I heard the unraveling news before teaching my first class.  With a new mindset and hidden prayers, I taught–in a never-before-known atmosphere–some classes before our college was closed at two o’clock.


Since I did not know what the next hours and days would bring, I felt a need to do some work in my office—a need to do something.  I stayed in M-303 until the campus was too quiet for me.


When my guide dog and I finally began our twenty-five-minute walk home, the downtown area of Milwaukee was so still, so hushed that I felt as if we were walking through the Twilight Zone; but ironically, the sun was shining.  The world, the city, my walk—everything felt different that day.  As I held the harness and leash of my Yellow Lab, I never realized that a young man’s hand had been on the harness of his Yellow Lab Roselle who guided Michael Hingson safely from the 78th floor of Tower 1 to street level and beyond.


As I approached Milwaukee’s Twin Towers, I decided to stop at my ground-floor bank; however, uncustomarily the entry door was locked.  In the midst of all the emptiness, a security guard came to the door and—for the first and only time—asked for my Id so that I could enter the building.


Soon after our brief stop at the bank, my Leader Dog Heather and I walked home through the absence of people and cars, through the empty sidewalks and silent streets.  Then, I joined the world and watched the all-encompassing coverage of the unbelievable.


The daughter of a firefighter, I had to force myself to stop imagining all the ends of too many stories.  In the common state of numbness and prayers, I vaguely remember that Tuesday became Wednesday, Wednesday drifted into Thursday.


Then, on 9/15, when Friday barely opened into Saturday, a quarter past midnight, shortly after I had fallen into a deep sleep, I was awakened by an unusual noise—seemingly right outside my upstairs bedroom window.  Arousing more fully,

I determined that I was hearing the whirring and clattering of a helicopter swooping back and forth, up and somewhat down, again and again, very near my townhouse—which is next door to a 22-story skyscraper of apartments.  As I grabbed my jogging jacket and gently touched my calm Lab, the attempts of the helicopter repeated and repeated.  On that fifteenth of September, all I could think of was September 11.


With Heather at my side and a phone in hand, I wondered whom to call, what to do.  “Is that helicopter trying to assault the south tower?  What is it doing?”


I did not know whether to stay in my townhouse or leave it.  Suddenly, a drop of the craziness of the world was right outside my townhouse.  I had to do something.


Despite the high winds, the helicopter’s repeating movements persisted.  I called the security guard at our south tower.


In the twenty-eight years I have lived in this complex, that night of September 15 was the one and only time a Flight-for-Life helicopter tried to land on the major thoroughfare on which I reside.


Finally, unable to land the helicopter in the high winds—so typical on these streets where a wind tunnel is formed by the lake and the skyscrapers—the pilot landed a couple of blocks north.  Flight-for-Life was needed for a young man who had driven his motorcycle into the path of an on-coming car.  The Flight-for-Life helicopter took the severely injured young man to a Chicago hospital.


From atop my stairs, through my east window, I could continue to hear the police work the scene.  They worked the scene for several hours.  The severely injured young man had tried to commit suicide; he was from the Middle East.


Eventually, Heather returned to her bed; and beside her, I returned to my bed.  My neighborhood returned to the quiet of a September night, but the world did not return to its pre-9/11 bed.


For a long time, fears were mangled, magnified, and microscoped.  For a long time, tears were translated, trapped, and traced.


Eighteen years later, our hearts are momentarily stilled in remembrance of that 9/11 when the world changed.


* * *


With United States flags always flying in our living room window, the window of our kitchen, and one of our upstairs windows,

we warmly send prayers for peace for all who were touched by 9/11–

Alice and Leader Dog Willow


September 11, 2019, Wednesday



From → Uncategorized

  1. Dear Alice,
    Your recollection of the experiences that you and Heather had on that unforgettable day are so very touching and bring heartfelt tears to my eyes. Our mother passed from this earth in July of 2001, and I remember being thankful that neither she and nor our dad, both highly patriotic Americans, were here to witness the horrific events of September 11.

    The books that you recommend are excellent and transport the reader to the heart of New York City on that tragic day. Thank you.

    Love and Peace to you and Willow,

    • Good evening, Mary–Thank you for your comments on this 9/11 post.

          Three of the several musical selections which I asked “Alexa” (smart speaker) to play this morning were:  “God Bless America” by Daniel Rodriguez, “God Bless the USA” by Lee Greenwood, “God Bless America” by Kate Smith, and “The Prayer” by Josh Groban and Charlotte Church.

      Good night!

      Alice and Willow

  2. Sue McKendry permalink

    Hello Alice–Thanks for the book recommendations. As you know, I’ve already read Thunder Dog, as has my sister. She always joked about the fact that when several of her friends were reading 50 Shades of Grey, she was reading Thunder Dog. I plan to get the “Marigolds” book next time I’m in the library, as you had mentioned it before. Thanks for being a friend who recommends so many good books.

    • Hi, Sue–You are welcome!  Of course, I thank you for informing me of the Louise Penny series of books.  As I am now reading book eight of the series, I am thinking that this one is the best of the series although I still have a few more to read.

          I enjoyed hearing the anecdote from your sister.

          I just heard that today, September 12, is National Day of Encouragement, which prompts me to recall all of the students whom you so encouraged through your years of teaching.  Also, thanks for the encouragement which you have given to me.

      Take care!  Hoping to talk with you soon!

      Alice and Willow

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: