Liberty Street

Encounters at Ground Zero

By Peter Josyph

Subjects: History, American History, New York/regional
Series: Excelsior Editions
Imprint: Excelsior Editions
Paperback : 9781438444222, 343 pages, August 2012

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Table of contents

Part I. Behind the Green Door

1. What's Burnin Now
2. Worse for Them
3. I Have to Work with This
4. Just Don't Let a Cop See you
5. Cats' Claws, Twisted Beams, Big Red Crane
6. Minuteman
7. The Nausea
Part II. Touching People
8. The Mud People
9. I Lost My Benchmark
10. Mister Mark Stays for Breakfast
11. Mister Mark Stays for Breakfast
11. Dark Science
12. Notes on Dust
Part III. Asking Questions
13. David Frank: At Work with the North Tower
14. William Langewiesche: National Correspondent for the Atlantic Monthly
15. Tex Mccrary: First Resident of Battery Park City
16. James Creedon: New York City Paramedic
17. Jason Mazzone

A haunting record of the destruction and rebirth of the neighborhood surrounding Ground Zero.


When writer and feature filmmaker Peter Josyph spent a year and a half combing the historic streets and debris-blasted buildings of Ground Zero in Lower Manhattan, talking with workers and residents, capturing its struggles and transformations, he became what he calls a "citizen-artist," personally shooting over two hundred hours of footage for his film Liberty Street: Alive at Ground Zero, and writing this haunting, eyewitness account of the extraordinary world that was created on September 11 and has vanished now forever.

When the Ground Zero neighborhood was misinformed and marginalized by city and federal agencies, it was left to its own devices in coping with round-the-clock deconstruction, toxic infestation, corrupt landlords, reluctant insurers, and simple access to the place they were proud—and cursed—to call their home. But loyal Downtowners who ran for their lives from the collapse of the Twin Towers returned with a resolve to restore their world to order. Exploring this "dust-driven world of collateral damage," Josyph documented their struggle at a time when there were few there to witness it, and bans against photography made him "a spy in the house of destruction. " In what the New York Times called "a personal, impressionistic, almost poetic account," Josyph finds in each detail a new way to envision that terrible morning, and he challenges the more simplistic, mainstream views of Ground Zero with vivid portraits of brave, exceptional—and complex—New Yorkers who made a place for themselves in that tragic and transitory neighborhood.

This expanded edition includes a new chapter and additional photographs.

Peter Josyph is an award-winning writer, painter, actor, and filmmaker. He is the author of What One Man Said to Another: Talks with Richard Selzer; editor of The Wounded River: The Civil War Letters of John Vance Lauderdale, M. D., which was a New York Times Book Review's Notable Book of 1993; and editor of Letters to a Best Friend by Richard Selzer, also published by SUNY Press. He lives on Long Island.


"This is an amazing book that explores a world that was never seen by those outside of New York City. " — Sacramento Book Review

Praise for the First Edition

"Josyph's vivid accounts of being near Ground Zero long after September 11…create a clear picture of a singular time in a unique neighborhood, and his decision to ignore regulations and film the neighborhood's reconstruction is one that will prove essential to the historical record. " — Publishers Weekly

"In Liberty Street, Peter Josyph, an author and filmmaker, transforms his documentary film about the attack and its aftermath into a personal, impressionistic, almost poetic account. . . . He artfully weaves together transcripts of his interviews…to produce what he describes as 'eyewitness studies of how urban catastrophe impacts the population and transforms the psychic and physical form of the city. '" — New York Times

"From the eyewitness reports of the survivors of September 11, Peter Josyph has distilled a powerful, gripping rendition of that most infamous act in recent history. To read this book is to be plunged headfirst into the blood, dust, and chaos of that day. A masterful piece of journalism. " — Richard Selzer, author of Knife Song Korea: A Novel