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Helaina Hovitz was 12-years-old and in middle school three blocks from the World Trade Center on September 11th, 2001. Her memoir encapsulates the journey of a girl growing up with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder after living through the events of 9/11 firsthand, chronicling its effects on a young girl at the outset of adolescence and following her as she spirals into addiction and rebellion, through loss, chaos, and confusion.
The events and experiences that are now common knowledge to everyone were a very real part of Helaina’s life, and are still as vivid in her memory today: the sickening thud of falling bodies hitting cars, the crumbling towers, running for her life as she tried to get home, her universe engulfed literally in a cloud. Hundreds, including Helaina, were stranded in the neighborhood, also just blocks from the fiery remains of the Towers, without phones or electricity or anyone to help. For fear of subsequent attacks, not to mention the toxic substances in the air, everyone was urged to stay inside their debris-filled apartments.
Anyone who has survived a horrific event knows that just because a body remains in motion does not mean everything will simply “go back to normal.” The chemistry of the brain and the body changes, impacting our relationships, our choices, and how we experience the world around us. Yet, we rarely find out what actually happens to people as they try to move on from a life-threatening experience—especially children, who are just beginning to develop an understanding of the world around them.
It would take Helaina more than a decade to overcome the PTSD—and subsequent alcohol addiction—that went misdiagnosed and mistreated for so many years.
In many ways, After 9/11 is the story of an entire generation growing up in the aftermath of America’s darkest day.It is the story of a group of children who directly survived September 11th, 2001 and bore its invisible scars for the rest of their lives.And, for one young woman, it is the story of a survivor who, after witnessing the end, got to make a new beginning.
“Hovitz’s story of finding hope in the darkness is inspirational, courageous and beautifully told. “After 9/11″ is a testament to the resiliency of the human spirit.”
— Cathy Free, Correspondent, PEOPLE
“Helaina Hovitz’s engrossing narrative begins in the shadow of the twin towers with her as a backpack-toting twelve-year old and plays out over the next fifteen years in dramatic—and sometimes distressing—detail. This impressive debut is both deeply evocative and intensely personal.” — Peter Canby, Senior Editor, The New Yorker
“Hovitz shows us, for the first time, what it was like for families in New York City who suddenly had to live like other war refugees, with no idea where their loved ones were or when the next attack might come. After 9/11 is a moving and remarkable testament to a time that changed our country, told beautifully by a young woman who never gave up hope that she could reclaim her life, no matter how grim things looked.”
— Sean Elder, Contributor, Newsweek
“Helaina Hovitz has written that rare kind of book that combines a poetic sensitivity to detail, the stark emotion of memory and a searing glimpse of the human spirit as it suffers, struggles and learns to heal. In her story are the seeds of hope for anyone who has survived trauma and seeks to truly live again.”
— Michele Rosenthal, author of Heal Your PTSD: Dynamic Strategies That Work
“Helaina Hovitz has written a powerful memoir of the overlooked personal trauma nearby kids experienced while living in the the shadow of so much destruction. Her story, and the stories of her friends and classmates, are a crucial part of the nation’s 9/11 history.”
—Jacoba Urist, Journalist, The Atlantic
“Helaina Hovitz’s first book is a brave, honest, and fast-paced personal account of the ways in which one day can change the course of our lives forever. Her story is an example of how trauma and addiction become part of a life, not someone’s entire life, and how we can take the wheel and change that course if we are willing to work for it. By combining her own personal experience with interviews and journalistic research, Hovitz shows us, every step of the way, what it is like to finally move towards the light after so many years of darkness.”
— Maia Szalavitz, bestselling author and journalist for TIME
“Hovitz’s memoir is distinctive, and larger than her own experience. Through her engaging and beautifully crafted narrative, we see the lasting scars that have lingered on so many of us.”
— Ilana Masad, Reviewer, Read it Forward
“Hovitz had the grit, determination and resources to pull herself out of the morass of PTSD. She has rendered a valuable service in adding her voice to the memory of this momentous interstice in world history.”
— Janet Levine, New York Journal of Books
“A must-read, inspiring and impressive.”
— Jason Schott, Brooklyn Digest
A tightly-paced memoir of a girlhood in a combat zone: the United States. This book cuts through political commentary and cultural critique to give us a child’s-eye view on New York City on 9/11, and reminds us that our lives are shaped in part by what we see and what we survive. Hovitz, a journalist, uses her strengths as a writer and reporter to unpack a powerful tale, and her experience as a survivor of PTSD to explore the impact of trauma on our lives. This is the 9/11 story–a story of children, families, and individuals–that is, as yet, untold.
— Marya Hornbacher, award-winning journalist and New York Times bestselling author of memoirs Madness: A Bipolar Life and Wasted