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Humanity in the face of destruction- America’s Best

October 11, 2012

When covering terrorism, war and disaster, the journalists featured in America’s Best Newspaper Writing capitalized on the human emotion revealed during these times of crisis and used individual stories to communicate the larger national and international issue.

“Nation Stands in Disbelief and Horror” by Bryan Gruley

Gruley effectively demonstrated how the events of 9/11 impacted the average American workers as well as the politicians. The variety in the people interviewed shows how the tragedy influenced all levels of society. The reporter incorporated quotes from commuters to depict the sights and sounds of the attack, but the comparison between Pearl Harbor and 9/11, which was attributed to Sen. John Warner of Virginia, indicates no individual was immune to the horrors America experienced that day. Gruley also used chronology to structure the article so that readers can develop a clear picture of the totality of the events.

“Amid the Ruins, a Separate Peace” by Steven Lopez

The very first line in Lopez’ article references the beloved image of a sleepless city, yet he uses the iconic representation to reveal the residents’ communal suffering in the days following 9/11. In response to the tragic attacks, Lopez illustrates a community that united in demonstration of gratitude and remembrance. The fireman’s memorial serves as an engaging fixture in the article, after which Lopez built the scene and characters. The inclusion of the memorial encapsulates the mournful tone of the city, yet their determination to continue. Furthermore, the description of the cabby’s driving “at funeral speed” relates to the deaths characterizing the atmosphere, but he leaves the reader with a more hopeful note, explaining that the unity cultivates a “New York that had never been more beautiful.”

“Only Human Wreckage Is Left in Karubamba” by Mark Fritz

Fritz used the absence of human interaction to show the effects of the Rwandan genocide. While the reporter included statistics that calculate the number of human deaths and atrocities, the more emotional impact is derived from the descriptions of murdered women waiting to have babies and the teacher prostrated “beneath a meticulously drawn black-board sketch of Africa” (229). The repetition of the simple sentence “You are Tutsi” also shows the irrationality of the murderous campaign.

“A Boy who was ‘Like a Flower’ by Anthony Shadid

I most admired Shadid’s piece because he criticized the American war effort in his article and demonstrated how the “War Against Terror” has introduced violence into the lives of a 14-year-old boy and his family members. The Washington Post reporter illustrated the blame the Iraqi family attributes to the Americans and offers an often undocumented perspective in Western media.

“1,200 Feet of St. Helens Tossed to the Wind” by Richard Zahler

Zahler personifies the agent of destruction in order to communicate the extent of the volcano’s destruction.

“Fighting for Life 50 Floors Up, with One Tool and Ingenuity” by Jim Dwyer

Dwyer threaded the window washer’s favored squeegee throughout the story to show the connection between all the events that occurred that morning. Even the final sentence returns back to the squeegee and bucket to show how the attack changed his environment. Dwyer uses the absence of the bucket to allude to the dead and the missing at the World Trade Center. The details woven into the story also brings the reader into the scene.

In Love with Death” by Jim Dwyer

10 years following the 9/11 attacks, Dwyer revisited the topic and wrote an article that challenged Americans to find the humanity exhibited on the tragic day in 2001. The assistance each person offered “saved a day that could have been defined only by hate from the sky,” Dwyer wrote. His narrative illuminates the victims of the disaster and the kindness that prevailed.

New Orleans is still crying‘ by Kelly Whalen

Whalen told the story of New Orleans through the eyes of the city’s residents, adding a human impact to the story.

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