Wake-Up Call: The Political Education of a 9/11 Widow by Kristen Breitweiser
Who can forget the horror of the images of the World Trade Center towers collapsing and the thousands of debris-covered New Yorkers fleeing the site or attempting to rescue the trapped survivors? The tragedy that changed our world had the most immediate and profound effect on the people who lost loved ones that day, but we all continue to feel the impact. Kristen Breitweiser, whose husband Ron was one of the 2,973 victims of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, was living an idyllic life as a suburban housewife and mother on September 10, 2001. After the initial grief from her husband's murder subsided, she channeled her rage into a campaign to discover how those responsible could be held accountable so that the world could become safe once again.
Breitweiser and three other 9/11 widows worked relentlessly to force the government to establish an unbiased agency to look into all aspects of the 9/11 tragedy. Known as "The Jersey Girls," they arose at 5:00 a.m., sent their children off to school, and piled into her "widowmobile" to drive to Washington to lobby congressmen, to testify before committees, and to carry out their own research into pre- and post-9/11 events. Although originally a loyal Republican, she became disillusioned with the Bush-Cheney presidency and its opposition to disclosure of information that could prevent further terrorist activity. Eventually, thanks to her activism, the 9/11 Commission was created.
Breitweiser has a law degree, and although she had put her professional life aside to raise her daughter, she speaks knowledgably about laws and the workings of political and legal agencies. The information that she and her fellow 9/11 widows discovered as a result of their tireless research is shocking and frightening. Mistakes and intentional cover-ups occurred more often than the American public knew, but the book doesn't take on a tone of sensationalism. Breitweiser chronicles her life prior to and after the death of her husband in a conversational, informational manner. The opening and closing passages are personal messages to her husband, detailing what is happening in her and their daughter's lives. Rather than being sentimental, however, they serve to soften the horror of bureaucratic flaws she exposes in the body of the book.
This book is a must-read for everyone in America, no matter the political affiliation, no matter the cultural heritage. We're all affected by the terrorist acts that continue to shape our world, and Breitweiser not only exposes the recent past, but she outlines the steps ordinary citizens can take to see that another 9/11 never occurs.