Every year on September 11th, I organize a free community concert (along with a small group of wonderful volunteers) honoring those who lost their lives, who lost loved ones and who responded to the events of 9/11 as well as to celebrate our patriotism and community spirit.
In 2009, we were privileged to have Erik as our guest speaker. He spoke to our full house with harrowing and intimate details, perfect storytelling and respectful dignity and shared the events of 9/11 from his perspective on the 71st floor. For more than 40 minutes our audience of more than 1,400 citizens, sat riveted to their seats. We ran really late on our concert that evening but it was worth every minute. Erik mentions this concert in his preface as one of the reasons he continued to pursue completing this book.
Someone posted an amateur video on YouTube that shares a short portion of his speech. If you search for 911 Patriot Day Concert, Lebanon PA, you can hear about 4 minutes of the beginning of his speech.
His ability to share his story clearly, with feeling but not pity, details but not exploitation, and most importantly, grace and humanity make his story a worthwhile read to any citizen of our great nation. His speech is still the best we ever had in our (now) 12 years of holding this concert and I'm so glad he has put his words to paper.
Now he has it in writing. And it is incredible. I got the book yesterday and couldn't stop reading it until I was done. So amazing are the stories of survival that some seem too much to believe. But they are true and they are just a small part of the survival stories from that fateful day. Erik has done a great job organizing the events by each person's story and a consistent timeline for all of them. Reading these stories makes everything more three dimensional and personal. It was hard to watch the events on the TV but even harder to hear it from the perspective of each survivor.
I am so grateful to have met Erik and heard his story firsthand and even more grateful that he is now sharing it with everyone.