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After 9/11: One Girl's Journey through Darkness to a New Beginning

After 9/11: One Girl's Journey through Darkness to a New Beginning

4.9 15
by Helaina Hovitz, Jasmin Lee Cori (Foreword by), Patricia Harte Bratt (Afterword)

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Helaina Hovitz was twelve years old and in middle school three blocks away when the World Trade Center was attacked. Her memoir encapsulates the journey of a girl growing up with PTSD after living through the events firsthand, chronicling its effects on a young girl at the outset of adolescence and following her as she spirals into addiction and rebellion, through


Helaina Hovitz was twelve years old and in middle school three blocks away when the World Trade Center was attacked. Her memoir encapsulates the journey of a girl growing up with PTSD after living through the events 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 literally engulfed in a cloud. Hundreds, including Helaina, were stranded in the neighborhood, also just blocks from 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 a generation growing up in the aftermath of America’s darkest day. And for one young woman, it is the story of a survivor who, after witnessing the end, got to make a new beginning.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“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 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

“Provides us with a timely account of the seen and unseen damage searing experiences and memories shape... Helaina Hovitz, in understated prose, takes us with her on her path away from PTSD. She does not shy away from nor minimize the effects of her trauma... Hovitz had the grit, determination and resources to pull herself out of the morass of PTSD. What about the rest of her generation growing up in this post-September 11 world?
...Throughout history witness-bearers through their stories provide personal glimpses into historic events that can otherwise become dates and place names and statistics. Hovitz’s book opens a window on one person’s journey in the aftermath of September 11. 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 the memoirs Madness: A Bipolar Life, and Wasted

Product Details

Carrel Books
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6.20(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.70(d)

Meet the Author

Helaina Hovitz is a journalist and editor, specializing in positive and inspiring stories. She has written for the New York Times, Salon, The New York Observer, Forbes, Glamour, VICE, Huffington Post, Teen Vogue, and Newsday. She is hard at work on her latest venture, a news service called Headlines for the Hopeful. She lives in New York with her fiancè and their rescue dog, Wiley.

Jasmin Lee Cori MS, LPC, is a psychotherapist and author of Healing From Trauma: A Survivor's Guide to Understanding Your Symptoms and Reclaiming Your Life.

Patricia Harte Bratt, PhD, is the Director of the Academy of Clinical and Applied Psychoanalysis (ACAP), the President of the National Association for the Achievement of Psychoanalysis (NAAP), and the author of Reciprocal Resilience: Surprising Benefits for Clinicians of Listening to Stories of Trauma.

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After 9/11: One Girl's Journey through Darkness to a New Beginning 4.9 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 15 reviews.
Anonymous 4 months ago
Helaina's bravery is startling in this crisply written memoir that takes us to a place we haven't been before. Her voice is that of calm resiliency in the face of unspeakable trauma. Helaina's book paints a picture on a canvas that is stock- one that we think we already "know" intimately from TV and the web or our own memories: the planes strike the towers, the towers fall, dust, death, and war. But trust me, this is a place you would not choose to go. Born of the dust and blood is a little girl cast with the patina of urban war and a cascade of adversity and poor choices to boot. Helaina ultimately frees herself and the reader from this darkness- a complete catharsis and an entirely new take and perspective on that beautiful, yet horrible fall day in New York. Helaina Hovitz is just beginning her life as a young woman freed from pain and addiction- and I personally can't wait to see what she writes next.
Gen 5 months ago
Ms. Hovitz has come through a major tragedy that not only hit our country but hit her very personally. Her recount of September 11th and all that followed for her - and all of us - is sharp, poignant and extremely important in the recovery we all went through and are still grappling with. Ms Hovitz was changed to her core and through the years has found a way to not only deal with her scars but inspire all of us to take every next step in order to heal. I felt her pain, I related to her relationships with her family, especially her grandmother, and I healed a little more through her story.
Anonymous 6 months ago
An incredible account, not just of 9/11, but of how trauma, until dealt with, can affect a life. Helaina’s memoir moved me deeply as I saw, through a child’s eyes, the details of that day. We all remember where we were, but this novel reminded me of where we are now and how past events continue to affect us on a national and individual level. As I work with children, I truly think this is a book that should be brought to schools! It provided me with a more accessible and personal understanding of the September 11th aftermath than any news article has in years.
Anonymous 7 months ago
After 9/11: One Girl’s Journey Through Darkness to a New Beginning offered me a window into the horrific events of 9/11 New York City and beyond. With integrity and painfully clear detail, Ms. Hovitz’s memoir recalls the utterly dark moments following the terrorist attacks on Manhattan. Just twelve years old at the time and inside a public school blocks from the Twin Towers, Ms. Hovitz recounts the chaos with vivid description to easily transport her readers to a time of societal darkness. Chilling images of pearlized dust, body parts, and grey, smoke-filled skies will remain with me indefinitely. Even more upsetting, in my opinion, is Hovitz’s harrowing retelling of her post-9/11 journey through PTSD. The author’s honest, insider’s perspective of PTSD--and the oftentimes dismal public reactions to it--will leave her readers with a better understanding of people struggling with trauma. I highly recommend Helaina Hovitz’s memoir to all readers looking to understand both the events of 9/11 and PTSD.
MMurynec 8 months ago
A must read! A truly important story of one remarkable young woman's struggle to overcome the psychic damage caused by living through the trauma of the worst terrorist attack in US history. Honest, powerful and empowering, this story needs to be heard to remind us that there is a path to wellness, but that just as we all may be damaged in different ways, we all may also find different paths to health.
FarrellK 9 months ago
Inspirational in Every Way Some memoirs transport us to a time and a place we could not visit otherwise. Some reach us on an emotional level, touching us in a quite personal way. Some make a bigger point about the world we live in and the flaws within it we do not, or cannot, see. Rarely in my experience does a book accomplish all three. Helaina Hovitz's "After 9/11" rises to this challenge. Helaina leads us through a journey that begins with the attack on the Twin Towers as seen through the eyes of a schoolgirl who expected nothing more that day than a normal schedule of classes. With remarkable recall and a deft touch, Helaina brings the day alive in a way that literally puts us in her shoes, running for our lives. From then, we share her journey as she come to terms with the impact those terrible moments had on her life and celebrate her courage as she overcomes those challenges to become the gifted journalist and writer she is today. Helaina has given us a great gift in opening her heart to tell this deeply personal story. We may all take something different away from it. Personally, when I now read about tragic events in our world, my mind turns to the cost our very youngest will have to bear.
Anonymous 10 months ago
A compelling recount of a horrific day seen through the eyes of a child. Helaina Hovitz invites readers into her innocent, whimsical, and yet simple world that is shattered in moments. Her heroic journey to reassemble security and understanding in the midst of loss and recovery is beautifully illustrated in her memoir. Hovitz’ unmistakable voice is pure and entertaining. If you are in your middle-to-upper 20s, you will recognize many of her childhood references (which are nostalgic treats) while peering into her quest to overcome the traumatic effects of September 11, 2001.
Anonymous 10 months ago
This book is really amazing. I’m only halfway through it and I can’t wait to finish. The way that she describes things in perfect detail, as if this just happened yesterday…It just goes to show that there isn’t enough attention being given to the victims who survived the 9/11 attacks, especially those who were very young and more confused than the adults who had no answers for them at the time. Hovitz’s story is both fresh and compelling. I’m glued in for the second half!
Therese83 10 months ago
This memoir is an amazing debut from a brave writer. It's relatable but also incredibly unique, and a powerful, detailed account of the ways in which one moment can change the course of our lives. Nobody has said this yet, but I especially love the details about her relationship with her grandmother, which captures the detail of moments that cause us to remember fond memories of our own....at the same time, it is heartbreaking to read, but written with a tenderness that moves you and possibly changes you a little, too, by the end. There is nothing like this out there.
Anonymous 10 months ago
This book was a wonderful story of healing. Though I was 10 years older and 3 miles farther uptown, I still identified so much with the fear and uncertainty of that day. Reading the account from the fresh perspective of a child is a solid reminder of how violence affects us all and how all of us have the same ability to both hurt and heal, regardless of age. It is a powerful example of "everyone is fighting their own battle" and for me, a beautiful message of hope, prompting me to look at the people around me with love and compassion instead of judgement.
Brooke Shamhart 10 months ago
This was one of the most amazing books I've ever read. I read the entire book in one weekend. I was absolutely captivated by the open and honest sharing and the inside look into the lives of the children of 9/11. As a schoolteacher, I really related to the storyline of evacuating the school. I especially connected with Helaina's relationship with her grandmother, and that was one of my favorite parts of the book. I am thankful for her honest share about her recovery, and I'm so impressed by her resilience. I recommend this book to anyone, especially those who seek to learn more about the survivors of 9/11.
BobRegal908 10 months ago
This book is brilliantly written and talks about an important part of American history through a fresh and rare perspective. Hovitz not only talks about the abomination that was 9/11 through the eyes of a 12 year old child, but she goes into vivid detail about what life was before and after that fateful day. Watching the life of Hovitz unfold and morph throughout the book makes for an exciting read that gives the reader hope that they, too, can make it through the toughest of times if they continue to fight and believe that there’s the tiniest ray of light at the end of the tunnel. To see where Hovitz has come, given everything she endured, is truly remarkable and a must read.
HaileysAunt 10 months ago
This book is incredibly moving—one of the best memoirs I've read this year. For anyone who has suffered from PTSD or trauma, or for those who know people who have, Helaina's journey is a must-read. I never contemplated 9/11 through a child's eye before reading about the author's powerful experiences in the minutes, days, and years after.
Anonymous 11 months ago
Book is enlightening on so many levels. And thankfully has a happy ending.
Anonymous 11 months ago
Eyes opened to something I never really thought about before. I just naturally assumed everyone that was in that area on that tragic day were adults. I hadn't thought about a school being just blocks away and children living through the horrific experience. How ever difficult for adults to process that day imagine it through the eyes of a child and how the child will be forever affected by it. Beautifully written and touching. I applaud the author for her courage to tell her story and to empower others to tell theirs.