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We All Fall Down    by Eric Walters order for
We All Fall Down
by Eric Walters
Order:  USA  Can
Doubleday, 2006 (2006)
* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

In We All Fall Down, Eric Walters sensitively tells a story of a young man estranged from a father kept so busy by his high finance career that he's 'more a rumor at our house than a confirmed fact.' Together, for a school career shadowing day, in his father's offices on the eighty-fifth floor of the World Trade Center south building, they share a terrifying and demanding experience that builds understanding and mutual respect, and strengthens the fraying bonds between them.

In their grade nine history class, Will Fuller and his best friend James Bennett (whose father is a NY fireman) learn the origins of the old rhyme that starts, 'Ring around the rosie'. James' fireman father has time to play hoops with his son and Will, and even plays guitar with them when they practice for their wannabe band. But Will's dad is always too busy. Then comes their fateful career shadowing day on September the 11th.

On the way in to work, John Fuller explains the design and construction of the towers to Will, as well as its complex system of local and express elevators. He takes him to the Observation Deck and then down to the office level, where Will meets his father's employees. They're in his dad's office when the first 'thunderous explosion' happens. John Fuller orders an evacuation of the floor, and calmly performs his role as fire warden. Then comes the second crash below their feet, shaking the building and shattering glass.

Again, John Fuller stays calm, figuring out what floor the plane hit, and the safest route down. The second half of the story covers that frightening descent through stairwells, and father and son's rescue of an injured Chinese woman, Ting, whom they take turns steadily piggybacking down the stairs, through several smoke-filled levels. Eventually, they meet firemen heading up, including James' dad, who asks a favor of them.

Father and son talk about the why of the horrific attack, John explaining, 'The United States is the dominant economic, cultural and military power on the planet. So every time something goes wrong ... then we're the ones who take the blame ... sometimes we do act to protect our interests in ways that might not necessarily be in the best interests of other countries. But still, we don't deserve this ... nobody deserves this.'

They do make it to the bottom, but are then separated just before the towers collapse, leading to a tear jerker of an ending. In an Author Note at the back, Eric Walters speaks of where he was and how he felt on 9/11, calling the attacks 'atrocities against all good-thinking people, of all countries and faiths' and affirming that 'as Gandhi said, in the end, good always triumphs.'

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