Rest in Peace: A Cultural History of Death and the Funeral Home in Twentieth-Century America

By Gary Laderman | Go to book overview

EPILOGUE:9/11

I FINISHED WRITING THE MAIN BODY OF THIS TEXT AT THE END OF AUGUST 2001, relieved that the four-year journey was finally over. Nearly finished with another book about death, I knew I would make the same vow I had made at the end of the first book: No more death! I was looking forward to a research future without death and a wonderful array of possible topics to occupy my mind in the coming years. For the last ten years of my life, I have been thinking, reading, and writing about death. I thought it was time for a change.

Then on September 11, 2001, terrorists made their fateful and fatal attack on the United States, using commercial airplanes as bombs to destroy New York City's Twin Towers, the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., and per- haps the White House if one of the planes had not crashed in Pennsylvania. The days and weeks after these events were surreal at times, filled with anguish, disbelief, astonishment, sadness, outrage, and anxiety. Like many, I found it very difficult to stay focused and be productive in the immediate aftermath of the brutal attacks. I even forgot about the book in the confus- ing, confounding period between 9/11 and Thanksgiving. In time, howev- er, I could not get away from the book or shake the feeling that this tragic day would have the last word in it.

This book asks the following question: How do Americans live with their dead? The terrorist act against the nation was an awesome spectacle of death and destruction—an extraordinary, impressive morning of horror and fascination that had annihilated thousands of lives in vital national centers by lunchtime. The success of the attack, the chilling impact it had

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