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Five Years Later

A 9/11 survivor's memoir of the aftermath


They say that every generation has its marker.

Where, for instance, were you when JFK was killed? Or when The Challenger exploded? Where were you when you heard John Lennon or Kurt Cobain had died?

Where were you when the Twin Towers fell?

Author Leslie Haskin was running for her life at that moment, and in the new book, Between Heaven and Ground Zero (Bethany House, 2006), she talks about survival, both physically and of the soul.

Being one of just two African-American directors in the northeast region of the insurance company for which she worked, Haskin says that she would like to believe that she was fair to her employees. She knows now, the reality is that they probably dreaded hearing her footsteps. Haskin says that she had an ego that rivaled her job title and her coveted office in Tower One of the World Trade Center.

She remembers that morning of September 11, 2001. Haskins says she grabbed her morning coffee and ignored her phone, as she normally did if the first call came before the coffee. There had been a snafu with a client, and Haskins says she remembers walking to her assistant's cubicle to hammer out the details. At that moment, the floor began to tilt. Debris fell from desks. Desks fell out of windows.

So did people.

As her co-workers scrambled to find exits from the horror, Haskins said she felt like a zombie. Finally, she walked to the stairs and started her descent. Several times, she remembers helping others and, strangely, she remembers carrying an empty laptop case and a newly purchased blouse.

Literally, Haskins says, through the grace of God, she made it through the lobby of Tower One and, eventually home to her neighbors and family. Friends and relatives flocked to her side. Haskins was safe ... but was she?

Over the next few days and weeks, Haskins says that she suffered through Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome. She was briefly hospitalized and saw a counselor for awhile, she tried new therapies, and she fell into ruinous financial trouble. She was unable to sleep and repressed the memories of all she saw that day. Then, although she had been steeped in strong faith as a child and many people had prayed for her, Haskins suddenly saw that God had been at her side all along.

Between Heaven and Ground Zero is a painful book to read, not because it's a bad book, but because the subject is still very fresh in our hearts and minds five years later. Author Leslie Haskins builds up, minute by minute, to the towers' fall and the aftermath, giving readers a "you-are-there" feeling and making the horror and confusion palpable. Haskins goes on to write about her faith, her relationship with God and how her life has changed since that day, almost five years ago.

If you've tired of the politics of 9/11 and you'd rather read a personal account, pick up this inspiring story from a survivor. Between Heaven and Ground Zero is a book you will quite easily remember.