Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

We All Fall Down

We All Fall Down

Eric Walters
Historical Fiction
For ages 12 and up
Random House Canada, 2006   ISBN: 978-0385661928

Will is starting high school this year and soon after the school year begins he and the other students are told that the teachers are going to have an all-day meeting. The plan is that the students will spend that day with a parent, relative, or friend in that person’s workplace. Since Will’s mother does not work he is going to be going to Manhattan with his father who is the vice president in an investment firm. Will is not keen on the whole idea for two main reasons: his father’s job is boring, and he and his father are not close.

Will’s father has, for some years now, put his work first, which has meant that he has not been around much for his wife or son. Not surprisingly, this has led to a certain coolness developing between the teenager and his father. It is therefore with a certain amount of reluctance that Will gets up very early to catch the train to go into the city. Even though his father is not his favorite person at the moment, Will cannot help being pretty impressed by his father’s workplace, which is on the eighty-fifth floor of the South Tower of the World Trade Center.

Will and his father are not in the building long before the most incredible and terrible thing happens. Everyone in the office hears a “thunderous explosion” and there is a “brilliant flash of light,” and then they see paper drifting down outside the large plate glass windows. Then they see that there is a huge hole in the side of the North Tower. At first they don’t know what has happened, but then the many televisions in the office start broadcasting the news that a plane has crashed into the building, a commercial plane.

Will’s father is the fire warden for the eighty-fifth floor and so he orders everyone in his office, and the people in the other offices, to evacuate the building and to leave via the stairs and not the elevators. People grumble, but most of them do as they do as they are told. Will and his father are just getting ready to leave themselves when the South Tower shakes, glass breaks, and ceiling tiles fall. The building sways and the two of them learn that a second plane has flown into the South Tower. It crashed into the building below where they are standing, damaging floors eighty-two, eighty-one, eighty, and seventy-nine.

The remaining people on the eighty-ninth floor, the ones who did not leave when they were told to do so, decide to go up, but Will and his father head down the stairs, not knowing whether they are going to be able to get through the damaged floors. The closer they get to the crash site the hotter and smokier it gets. Dangerous debris fills the stairwell, and at times they wonder if they should turn back, but they keep going and by some miracle they find a way through. Surely the worst part of their ordeal is behind them now. They soon learn that the mortally wounded South Tower has more surprises in store for them.

When the attack on the World Trade Towers took place, many of us spent hours watching live and recorded footage of what was happening on our televisions. The images of fire, smoke, wounded people, and first responders covered in dust filled our lives for days. It was horrifying and heartbreaking. Most of us really had no idea what it was like to be inside one of the buildings. In this book, Eric Walters takes us inside the South Tower, and through the eyes of an ordinary fifteen year old boy we come to appreciate what it was like to be there. Will’s reactions to the events he was a part of are honest and genuine, and we see how ordinary people can do extraordinary things when they are presented with an appalling challenge. Will and his father cope as best they can in an unthinkable situation and we see how their own personal issues are also addressed against the backdrop of a disaster.