Monday, August 23, 2010

School Book: A Widow's Walk

It's almost that time of year again and I wanted to read a bit ahead before classes start in a few weeks. I'm taking two classes this semester: America After 9/11 and Translating the Middle Ages. Because I am already a book ahead in the Middle Ages class (I've already read the translation of Beowulf we're using), I decided to start with a book from the 9/11 class. I chose A Widow's Walk by Marian Fontana because it was written by a writer, so I was sure it would be good.
Well, the book was really good. I just wasn't prepared for how depressing it would be (I know, something called A Widow's Walk kind of screams depressing). A Widow's Walk is Marian's memoir of her life in the year after 9/11. Her husband, Dave, was a firefighter who died trying to rescue people from the Towers. The morning of 9/11, Marian and Dave were preparing to celebrate their 8th wedding anniversary. They had just talked to one another, preparing to meet up at a coffee shop. But while Marian was dropping their son, Aidan off at school, Dave was called to the Towers and to his death.
A Widow's Walk tells the story of what happened in that first year after 9/11. It tells of the terrible grief experienced by Marian, her family, and the wives of the other firefighters from Squad 1 who lost their lives that day. It tells of 5 year old Aidan, refusing to believe that his father is never coming back. It is a story of terrible loss, but also the beauty of the human spirit as friends, family, the country and the world band together to help the families of that day.
Part way through, Marian also starts the 9/11 Widows and Victims' Families Association. While the wives of the firefighters are taken care of due to the dangerous nature of their job, other families do not have the same supports present. Marian bands together with other charities started in the wake of 9/11 to help those in need. Marian also fights for the firefighters themselves, first to keep Squad 1 open when the city wants to close it down in the first few weeks after 9/11, and later lobbying for higher wages for the firefighters.
My only complaint is that there are a million different characters and it's really hard to keep everyone straight. Other than that, A Widow's Walk is a beautiful book, with some excellent descriptions and phrases. It is also incredibly sad, documenting one woman's terrible grief. It was an excellent read which really brought the whole tragedy of 9/11 back to me nine years after the fact.

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