When the Walls Came Down by Ken Greene
In his revealing book, When the Walls Came Down, Ken Greene, a former Assistant Director of Aviation at the Port Authority, who received that agency's Civilian Commendation Medal for his heroism on the day of the 9/11 attack, speaks out about life in America before, during and after the World Trade Center tower walls fell.
“A lot changed on that day," Ken recalls. "If only for a brief moment, the walls of prejudice, ignorance, and division came down. As we helped each other, no one cared about race, color or religion. We were simply people doing everything we could to assist one another through an unimaginable crisis. We all became true Americans."
However, since that timeframe, according to Greene, much of America has regressed to a pre-9/11 mindset, and a valuable opportunity to include and heal everyone's pain was lost. There's a reality that no coverage or commission can ever quite capture, and that's how the day's events and their aftermath directly impact those of us who were already and continue living a different reality." While the attacks have since become the nation's most documented and discussed event, first hand survivor accounts of what happened on that day are rare.
Ken's account, featuring a chilling, detailed moment-by-moment re-telling of the painstaking walk down the stairs, of being inside the complex when it fell, and of going back inside to help others, is one not many can tell. Few people who were inside the tower when it fell actually escaped. Ken Greene is perhaps one of the few survivors with the ability, the background, historical information and ability to put the day's events in perspective to tell a truly untold story.
Testimonials from Readers
He was there!
"Ken Greene knows firsthand about 9/11, the day the walls came down. He was there! He also knows something about the walls that separate us. While tragedy has a way of helping people forget about their differences in a time of great need, walls still remain. ...When The Walls Came Down is also snapshot of our goodness and the barriers that prevent us from sustaining it. Listen to his voice and try honestly to see with new eyes. You will emerge a slightly different person." --Nigel D. Alston Talk Show Host, Columnist & Motivational Speaker
"The author's first-hand account of surviving and helping others survive the attack on the North Tower on 9/11 offer insights I have not read elsewhere. This in-and-of itself makes the book a fascinating read, but the author goes further. He brings to focus the fact that there was a brief moment in this country when the tragedy of 9/11 brought all of America together. Our race, religion, politics, or other elements that tend to divide us simply did not matter. Unfortunately, that unity was short lived. In fact, our nation is even more divided, and our civil liberties are more at risk than ever before. The author details his personal views of life in America and its history from the perspective of a black, Native American. Being white and from European descent, I was at first challenged by them, then intrigued, and in some cases disturbed. Case in point: I did not know that in the same battle Jessica Lynch fought, Lori Ann Piestewa, a single Mom and Native American died. Also taken captive and brutally beaten was Shoshawna Johnson, a black single Mom. These women are just as much heroes as Ms. Lynch, yet neither was given the same credit that was due to them. Ms. Lynch tried in vain to set the record straight. She openly shared on national TV her concern for the inaccuracies and omissions of her ordeal. I share these concerns as well. In fact, I was outraged. Needless to say, the book is filled with other insights: some amusing, some very sad. One might think the author would be bitter, but that is not at all the case. He simply wants to point out that there are different views of life in America, and after reading the book, I gained a better appreciation of them. An excellent read! Highly recommended!"--David Levitt
"If you are ready to know some hard truths and to stop being amongst the herd of "group thought," then this is the book for you. But if you'd rather go on blindly and remain in denial, I strongly caution you not to read this book. Ken Greene gives an honest, brutal account of not only what happened during those horrifying moments when the walls came down, but he goes further to discuss "politically incorrect" topics such as racism in America, election fraud, and the ills within our society that have created walls (globally) that should never have existed. Poignant, compelling, disturbing--and oh so enlightening!"--L.A. Banks
Place on your list of “must reads”
"The phrase "September 11" makes most of us pause and reflect upon the haunting images surrounding that day's terrible events hauntingly embedded in our minds. Sometimes we force ourselves not to mentally go back there, but when we allow the memories, we are prone to shudder recalling the attack on The World Trade Center. Survivor and debut author Ken Greene was courageous enough to pen WHEN THE WALLS CAME DOWN. I thank him for sharing the horrific details he experienced. Greene's book shares personal accounts such as: whenever he hears any one of seven songs he listened to during his commute to work that fateful morning, the music "puts me right back on the 6:08 a.m. train headed to Grand Central Terminal". The book is full of these honest, insightful truths which puts the reader in his body and mind. Reading vivid scenes of being trapped in the stairwell of the tower in which he worked, thinking of his wife, and being covered in soot brought tears to my eyes because his descriptions took me there. If you enjoy reading about history, current events, political views, and analytical brainstorming, you will become engrossed as Greene depicts the correlation between obvious routine displays of racism he encounters during his daily commutes, to the 2001 Presidential voting controversy, to Bush's explanation of going to war, and much more. He has included plenty of research to back up his views. His writing is easy to follow, emotional, very witty, and at times humorous despite the intense subject matter. The fact that the book is more than a memoir of September 11 is what pushes it into the extraordinary class of literature. Greene was employed by the Port Authority of New York as an Assistant Director of Aviation when he found himself thrust into the infamous deadly situation which demanded him to step up and save his life and help rescue others. I recommend this book is placed on your list of must-reads. You are sure to learn while becoming emotionally caught up, as you find yourself not being able to put this book down. -- Reviewed by Janet "Jaize" Brown, The RAWSISTAZ™ Reviewers
The Seat of Last Resort
The casual book-buyer might pick up Ken Greene's When The Walls Came Down and see "another 9/11 book," emblazoned with an image of the World Trade Center buildings billowing smoke after being slammed by jetliners. While the surreal horror of that day can't be avoided whenever an author chooses to tackle this generation's Pearl Harbor, the title belies a sharp critical analysis of what that day really meant to the past, present, and future of America's readiness, or rather, willingness, to truly live up to its ideals of equality, freedom and democracy.
Today, these words are taken for granted, like they need not prove their actuality in Americans' daily lives. However, as Greene begins the first part of the book recalling what started out as a typical day, he explains that he was often reminded of how equality still proved to be an elusive concept when it comes to the perceptions of African-Americans, poignantly explained in what he calls "the seat of last resort," a daily reminder of how, on a crowded suburban commuter train where he was sometimes the only black passenger, the seat next to him was often the last to be occupied, if at all, despite his professional aura.
But it was that professionalism that compelled him to stay behind and help others out of the North Tower of the WTC, amidst a backdrop of horror and mayhem that Greene paints in the mind's eye with a graphic clarity that television images could never penetrate. At that moment, when the walls were literally about to come down, so too did the constructs that separate Americans into categories. It's impossible to imagine anyone in that horrific situation caring whether or not the hand stretched out to help them was conservative, gay, or foreign, and Greene illustrates this as he takes the reader through his fortuitous escape from hell and through the rest of his day. The million-dollar question left hanging over his audience: Does it take shared tragedy to get Americans to truly come together as one, in the way that's always idealized yet neglected?
The unfortunate answer, as Greene takes his work beyond 9/11, looks like yes, as he convincingly explores America's "business as usual" attitude through a diorama of topics in part two, Politics, which includes the build-up towards war with Iraq, and part three, Race and Hypocrisy. Even those who don't like looking into that mirror would be hard pressed to trap Greene's work in the category of disgruntled ranting as he has done his homework, providing timelines and context behind so-called controversial issues to bring his point home.
Greene challenges readers to acknowledge inherent hypocrisy simmering under the surface of unflinching patriotism, and he isn't afraid to upset anyone's incredulous sense of "civilized" American superiority. Greene's book is a warning: if Americans lose the true meaning of professed ideals, while also acquiescing the need for governmental accountability in actions that effect the world, history will repeat itself until we get it right...if at all. --Lerron R. Wright