Thomas, Annie. With Their Eyes: September 11th: The View from a High School at Ground Zero. Harper Collins, 2011 (reprint). ISBN 978-0060517182 256 pp. $
Stuyvesant High School is practically next to ground zero, so the students, teachers and staff at the New York City High School had eyewitness seats to the World Trade Center tragedy. The school was closed and The FBI and local fire and police took over, making the school a command and communications center while the site was excavated. Stuy became famous as its inhabitants generously gave their space, their time and themselves to feed workers, donate blood and help out.
When the school finally reopened, the drama coach decided that the winter play should focus on the experiences they had been through since September, and the students did hundreds of interviews, whittling them down into poetic monologues in natural language to create an ensemble piece of ten accounts of what happened Sept 11th and how their lives have been changed. A pregnant teacher, a school janitor, and a Muslim student are just some of the voices heard. While some entries are a bit redundant, there are truly moving moments and unique insights in every piece. One can only imagine the power this performance would have.
At once a memorial, tribute, primary source, and dramatic play, this work of literature should have a place on every library shelf. The paperback edition is more than affordable.
Side note: My young adult book group met on Oct 8, and I booktalked about 20 books for them to consider for our next 6 meetings. The kids groaned as I introduced book after book that contained murder, crime, angst and abuse. “Don’t you have anything happy?” they whined. I gave them a few upbeat options, and last but not least, mentioned With Their Eyes. And FIVE out of seven voted for it! And even got excited about the idea of perhaps doing a dramatic reading (no one followed through though). I was stunned and pleased at their excitement over this book.