Title: United We Stand.
Author: Eric Walters.
Genre: Fiction, YA, teen, 9/11.
Publication Date: September 8, 2009.
Summary: It’s September 12th, 2001, and New York City is at a standstill: somber, bleak and shocked in the aftermath of the World Trade Center attacks. Will knows he and his father are lucky to have escaped; others, like his best friend James’ father are still missing, and soon presumed to be dead.
My rating: 7/10.
♥ "No choice today, but from now on there'll be shorter hours, fewer evenings. You'll see.
"We'd like that, dear, "my mother said. "But seeing is believing."
"Sometimes it's the other way around. Believing is seeing."
♥ Up against the wall there were two gigantic television sets, both turned to CNN. On the screen were images of the scene right outside the door, and people were sitting or standing and staring at those images. How bizarre. They could have looked out the door and seen the real thing, but they were transfixed by those electronic images that anybody could see, anywhere in the world. Maybe that was the attraction. They were protected, the reality safely behind the glass screen. They could pretend that it was happening somewhere else, or that they were somewhere else. I could certainly understand those feelings.
♥ "It's firefighters. When you're little you think your father is the greatest, strongest, most powerful man in the world."
"That he's bulletproof," I said, using the word James had used for me.
"Yeah, that he's bulletproof, that nothing can happen to him. But then you get older and you know better. And then you hear about other firefighters who have died in the line of duty. People you've never heard of, or people your father knew. Then it's a family friend, somebody like that man today, Charlie O'Leary. You've met the guy at a picnic or a Christmas party or something, and then you hear that he's gone, died in the line of duty. And then it's not just one or two, but more. And you start thinking that every time your dad goes to work might be the last time you ever see him."
"That would be brutal."
"He puts on that uniform, pats you on the head, gives everybody a hug, and leaves, and you know that he's risking his life for people he doesn't even know, and he's leaving behind a family who's scared. But we have to pretend we're not scared, right? I remember so many times my mother would listen to the news and hear about a fire. She'd make some phone calls and try to figure our if his company was involved. And then she'd slip off into the bathroom, and later she'd come out smiling. But I could tell she'd been in tears, because she'd heard that it was his company and he was there. She's put on a big, fake smile for us so we wouldn't worry."
"Like she's doing now?" I asked.
He nodded. "And when he didn't come home when he was supposed to she'd get even more fake-happy, to try to stop us from worrying. But I knew."
"And is that when you'd get mad at him?" I asked.
"Yeah. Really mad. I wanted to know why he couldn't get a real job, like your father or everybody else's father I know!... I'm not mad at him any more, you know, in case you were thinking that. I haven't been for a long time. I got older and realized that the world needs people who run into those buildings while everybody else is running out. And I know that he was doing it not just because he was a little boy who didn't grow up, but because the world needs men who are willing to risk their lives, even for strangers... Especially for strangers."
"Like yesterday," I said quietly.
I thought about his father climbing those stairs, heading up toward the fire as we were running in the opposite direction. And I remembered how he looked - like there was no other place in the world he would have chosen to be, even if he could.
"Yeah, like yesterday. He went there to help people, and that's what made him feel good, feel alive. And I wouldn't have made him stop even if I could have because that's the core of who he was, everything I know about him, everything I love about him. I realized at some point that being a firefighter wasn't just what he did, it's what he was."
"I understand," I said.
"I thought you might. I just hope my kids understand."
"Your kids? You still want to be a firefighter?"
"We need people who are willing to run into burning buildings, who are willing to risk their lives. Maybe we need them now more than ever. We were down there, just a couple of guys, part of hundreds, maybe thousands of people trying to help. We weren't alone. We worked together, and we stood together. Because, the way I see it, united we stand and divided we fall."
♥ "I did what I needed to do."
"That's what we're all going to do," my father said. "We're going to go back to work; planes will start flying again; we'll go back to our lives. We're not going to forget what happened, or the people who have died, but we're going to honor their lives by continuing to live ours. We're going to come together, fight together, and stand together."
"United we stand," I said.
My father smiled. "United we stand."