How we saw tragedy New book chronicles the emotions of Hobokenites in the days following 9/11

During and after the events of Sept. 11, Hoboken residents felt the entire spectrum of emotions, including but not limited to sadness, fear, anger, patriotism, resolve and shock. Now these powerful feelings of our hometown residents have been put into a written history that will be available to future generations of students, scholars and neighbors.

“Within these pages you will find some very beautiful essays and recollections, mostly by Hoboken residents,” said Arturo Martinez, who is on the Board of Trustees of the Hoboken Public Library, in the prologue a newly released book titled September 11: Hoboken Remembers. “Some are poetic and literary, and some are plain and simple. But all of them come from the heart: they express an immediacy not frequently achieved by non-professionals. And well they should; after all, they were written by people who witnessed or lived through those terrible moments of 9/11.”

Take, for example, Melanie Best’s emotional realization about how the world has changed: “But the unrelenting determination to see the good side of this horror has seemed to me, at times, a desperate cover-up of another truth exposed by September 11 – that to each of us is but a flicker of life and consciousness occupying a speck of time in an endless continuum. For me, and perhaps many others, the most profound outcome of being an eyewitness to murder and the destruction may end up being an accelerating sense of urgency to live our lives with purpose. From now on, perhaps the trick is to balance the dark knowledge with hope.”

Best, and 52 others who work or live in or around Hoboken, have put their thoughts and experiences into what is a powerfully heartfelt book. The organizers of the book, the Friends of the Hoboken Public Library and Public Library staff, said at a touching unveiling and book reading Thursday evening that it was important to record the community’s memories while they were still fresh to create a historical record, as well as provide a means for coping and healing for those who wanted to contribute essays or poems.

“We hope that this book contributes some understanding as to how we felt as a community in the days following September 11,” said Martinez, who was on the Board of Directors of the Friends of the Library when he came up with the idea for the book.

The Friends of the Hoboken Public Library is a non-profit group of volunteers who organize book sales, fundraisers and other programs for the library.

“And now future generations [of Hoboken residents] will be able to learn about what we were feeling and what we experienced,” said Martinez.

Before she read a passage from her work Thursday, Best gave her motivation for submitting an essay for the book. She said that, for her, talking about 9/11 and writing her feelings down was a valuable healing exercise. “I think that [after 9/11] we all needed to talk about what happened,” said Best, “Talking about it was a way for us to process what we saw.”

She added that a secondary objective this book accomplishes is that it compiles the “collective memories” of those who lived through the attack in Hoboken, something that will be increasingly valuable as time passes.

Another author, Sharon Bovell, who, in addition to being a current Hudson County resident, works at the Jersey City Medical Center, expressed in a poem her helplessness of living in Atlanta at the time of the attacks, hundreds of miles away where she grew up, in Brooklyn. “Miles away on that tragic day,” says Bovell, in her poem. “But my heart was still with you; Because I felt the pain of New Yorkers; Because I felt the pain of all New Yorkers; Knowing that I was one too.”

Bovell said that while many people might wish to flee New York area after 9/11, she knew that is was where she need to be. “After 9/11,” she said. “[While living in Atlanta] I felt so far away, so unconnected to what was happening in my city.”

She added that 9/11 was a motivating factor to move back up north to New Jersey.

Children’s point of view

Another interesting aspect of the book is that it includes the perspectives of nearly every group in the community, including children.

“My mom was there and she was crying,” said Casey Schott, who was an eighth grader at the Demarest School in 2001. A portion of Schott’s personal journal is included in the book: “I never saw her cry like that before. I felt really said because I was worried that maybe her friends died. Today is a very tragic day. Who knows what will happen next? They are saying on the news that the terrorists might use diseases or chemicals next, but I don’t believe it.”

The book was published by John Wiley & Sons, Inc., of Hoboken. Hoboken’s Head Librarian, Lina Podles, gave here sincere gratitude to Wiley & Sons for publishing the book. “We would like to express our gratitude to our new neighbor and supporter, John Wiley & Sons, Inc. And especially Deborah Wiley for generously helping us make this publication possible.”

Initially, the cover for the book had the World Trade Center as the backdrop with an autumn leaf gliding downward to symbolize those who died. But that design was replaced by one depicting a darkened sky that gradually lightens, signifying hope in the face of adversity, said library officials.

Copies are on display and will remain in the permanent collection at the Hoboken Public Library at 500 Park Ave. An additional 100 copies will also remain on sale to the public for $20.


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