We’re Not Leaving: 9/11 Responders Tell Their Stories of Courage, Sacrifice, and Renewal (Book Review)

We’re Not Leaving
9/11 Responders Tell Their Stories of Courage, Sacrifice, and Renewal

Author: Benjamin J. Luft, M.D.
Web site: 911RespondersRemember.org
Published: 2011
Publisher: Greenpoint Press
ISBN: 978-0-9832370-2-0
Pages: 302 + black and white pictures
Cost: $20.00 paperback

Purchase the book here: We’re Not Leaving: 9/11 Responders Tell Their Stories of Courage, Sacrifice, and Renewal

We’re Not Leaving is a collection of 33 stories/experiences penned by the responders themselves in the first person. The stories are raw and uncut, easily enabling the reader to view the experience from the eyes of the writer. The stories give the reader a first hand account of what they went through that day and the days, weeks, and months following September 11th. From story to story, events are captured from different views and places in and around Ground Zero.

From NYPD Officers to an EMS Director, a building inspector to a Paramedic, Firefighters to iron workers, welders to K9 handlers, a massage therapist to a Priest this book has a broad spectrum of responders. Some of which are used to responding to emergencies and others who felt the need to respond. They all found themselves in something bigger than they could imagine, yet each one of them was able to help.

The individual narratives in this book cover such a myriad of thoughts and feelings. They cover the initial thoughts when they heard or saw what was happening to political issues involved in the recovery, clean-up, and health issues of the responders. Some of these accounts are by people who you might not have considered a “responder” until you read what they were able to accomplish.

We’re Not Leaving is divided into 5 parts

  1. Caught in the Collapse – Accounts from Police, Fire, and EMS Professionals who responded to the terrorist attacks. Their accounts of what they thought, witnessed, felt, and experienced as the World Trade Center Towers collapsed. Many of them talk of survivors guilt.
  2. Looking for Survivors – Hope for finding survivors, looking and searching a midst the Pile, and the beginning of the “controlled chaos” that would become the management of such a large incident. Iron workers, welders, truck drivers, Firefighters, Police Officers, and so many others came together searching and hoping for survivors.
  3. Recovery, Recovery, Recovery – A look into how working at Ground Zero and other areas involved in the recovery effort effected those working there. For days, weeks, even months, people worked at the Pile and staging areas for what was removed from Ground Zero. They would continually see horrific sites, yet it became somehow became routine for some responders.
  4. The Responders Need Help – Many other people became responders too. They came from all over the Country to help. Part 4 offers accounts of these “responders” from their point of view and those of the people they were helping, the ones working the Pile.
  5. Renewal – A look into what has happened in the 10 years since 9/11. Advocates fight for responders health benefits, and others talk about issues facing responders since 9/11…some of which should have been taken care of up front.
The book is completed with an epilogue by the Widow of an NYPD Officer who died in 2007 of cancer from working at Ground Zero.

I found myself immersed in this book and hardly put it down until I finished it. I relived many paths taken that day through the narratives in this book. I have read numerous books on 9/11, each of them a little different than the others. This book has been one of the best. Raw accounts from people who might not have been able to share their story otherwise.

I recently finished reading We’re Not Leaving just prior to heading to New York City for the first time in 15-20 years. I had not been to Ground Zero since the terrorist attacks. This book helped me remember some of the landmarks, but more importantly I was able to realize where some of these stories occurred that I had just read a week prior. Wow, what a tribute to those who worked at Ground Zero, the lives lost that fateful day, and those who have perished since due to working the Pile.

My favorite excerpt:

“Would I do it again? I’d do it tomorrow. I may not be healthy enough, but it’s what I’m made of. When I spoke before Congress and Senate, and I’ve done it many times, I always ask them: What’s the one thing that almost every responder had in common? And they still to this day can’t answer the question.” source – page 102 by John a Union Ironworker. 

About the Author:

Benjamin J. Luft M.D.

Benjamin J. Luft, M.D., is the Edmund D. Pellegrino Professor of Medicine at SUNY Stony Brook and an internationally recognized expert in the treatment of Lyme disease and AIDS-related conditions. As a native New Yorker he was deeply impacted by the 9/11 attacks and was inspired to establish the Long Island World Trade Center Medical Monitoring and Treatment Program, which provides care to more than 6,000 disaster responders and has become an incubator for several important research and treatment programs that emphasize both mental and physical well-being. Dr. Luft has also established several important projects commemorating 9/11, including the “Remembering 9/11 Responders” oral history program.

 Related: Podcast: Interview with Benjamin Luft MD about We’re Not Leaving

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