Statement by the editors of The Atlantic Monthly
November 18, 2002

William Langewiesche's book American Ground is intended an inspiring work, one that captures a uniquely American way of tackling even the gravest challenges and memorializes the extraordinary achievement of three-dimensional human beings who labored at the World Trade Center site. By its very nature the story ventures into highly motional territory; it is to be expected that emotions would be stirred by any piece of work that described the site with depth and complexity.

William Langewiesche is experienced and level-headed reporter, Without the slightest muckraking impulse, and American Ground is neither moralistic nor reproving in character. No individuals were described in negative terms, and even the actions of anonymous members of groups which on the 'outside' and in 'normal life' might be construed as negative, are presented in American Ground with empathy and understanding in the context of an unusual and tragic environment that was closer in character to a battlefield than to an American city. This has been very clear to most readers and critics, who have given American Ground an overwhelmingly positive response.

The World Trade Center site, as Langewiesche describes it, was a complex place where many things happened, people had widely varying experiences, and many interpretations were possible. The specifics and details contained in American Ground were vigorously fact-checked, as all material contained within The Atlantic Monthly is. The fact checking took five months of full-time work, by a experienced team of two, who sought to trace every detail to its source. They spoke to eyewitnesses, to people being quoted, to city officials; they tracked down every detail through independent channels, and in the most sensitive cases through more than one. While there is speculation contained within American Ground, it is open speculation, and in most case it was included because it was the speculation that was active at the site and therefore was part of the emerging culture that is the subject of American Ground. It would be a complete misreading of American Ground to believe that it denigrates the New York Fire Department, or anyone else who was an active participant in the response and recovery process that William Langewiesche celebrates. It was a process that Langewiesche explored with extraordinary care and thoroughness, in daily reporting that stretched over many months. Everything described at the site is based either on Langeweische's own observations, as a reporter accorded full and continual access, or on interviews with multiple eyewitnesses.

American Ground is a clear-eyed view of a time of great sadness and stress, and a piece of reporting remarkable for its depth and its integrity.

We stand behind it proudly.


Toby Lester
Deputy Managing Editor
The Atlantic Monthly
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Boston, MA 02114
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