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For some it's history

Cover of Ground Zero
A review of Ground Zero by Alan Gratz

Do you remember where you were on September 11, 2001?  I was at home, watching the news, I stepped away to help my young daughter and when I came back, the South Tower was gone.  

A few years ago, my son's fifth grade class read Towers Falling by Jewell Parker Rhodes. I read along with him, and it was one of the first times that I understood that to my children, and so many others, September 11, 2001 was not a powerful memory or a deep wound, but a historical event.  

Alan Gratz writes excellent historical fiction books for upper elementary and middle school children. His powerful new novel is out for this, the 20th anniversary year of 9/11. Ground Zero features parallel story lines of Brandon, a nine year old boy going to work with his father at the World Trade Center's Windows on the World restaurant on September 11, 2001, and Reshimina, an Afghan girl on September 11, 2019.

Brandon slips away from his father on the 107th floor, to go to the underground mall and is in the elevator when the first plane hits. The confusion, terror, fear and loss he and others experience are profound. There are some details that are difficult to read, but if you are interested in trying to understand what it was like for people in the World Trade Center that day, this book will certainly give you perspective.  

In alternating chapters, we meet eleven year old Reshmina who has grown up surrounded by war, but still she hopes for more. She stumbles upon a wounded American soldier and is torn between anger and a wish for revenge on Americans for the death of her sister, and her urge to help and human being, knowing that if she does help, she will put her family and her village in danger.

Reading this book inspired me to go back and re-read many news accounts of 9/11. I've been talking about it with my family and children. As 9/11 has had so many profound implications for the United States, Afghanistan and the world, I think it is important to remember what happened and to think critically about our political, historical and moral responses.

Ground Zero is not an easy read, but I hope it will inspire you to talk about 9/11 and it's aftermath with your family as we approach the anniversary.

Jun 11, 2021