Q&A with Joseph Cammarata

On September 11, 2001, New York City police officer Joseph Cammarata was on the deck of the Staten Island Ferry as it moved toward the burning World Trade Center when the South Tower suddenly collapsed. At that moment, Cammarata knew that it had fallen on his brother Michael, a brand-new New York City firefighter. No trace of Michael was ever found, and Joseph sank into a deep depression that would last for eight years and affect every facet of his life. Now, in a new book, Face of Courage: Rise from the Rubble Joseph shares how he reached rock bottom and eventually, painfully, found his way back out of the abyss into which his brother's senseless death had driven him. The book is available for purchase at www.911faceofcourage.com.

When did you decide to write this book?

The process started about a year ago. It was still so fresh in my mind eight years after the event, it was easy to go back and reflect on what happened. Before he died, Michael wrote a letter to the family about what to do in case anything ever happened to him, and the third item on his list was "make my spirit live on." That was one of the driving mechanisms behind the book. Once the project was started everything just came naturally because it was etched in my mind.

What was the most difficult part about writing the book?

I would say it was the chapter about my mother passing away from cancer, because she held the family together after September 11. It was the toughest chapter to organize and definitely the toughest to write because it was recent and still fresh in my mind. The other chapters were written with a lot of joy because I knew I was making Michael's spirit live on and I knew I would achieve closure when it was finished. I had tremendous support from my family and friends, who literally rallied behind me to do this because they knew it would improve my life.

How did you find a publisher?

Most people write books to make money, and obviously that was not my purpose. When financial motivation is behind you, you generate a manuscript and market it to different publishers to see who will give you the best deal possible. Since that wasn't in the equation, I decided to self-publish it and found AuthorHive, which is a self-publishing company based in Indiana. They offer all services like editing, proofreading and design, but you, as author, are completely in charge of the project--you go at your own pace and set your own deadlines. My experience with self-publishing has been amazing, because it's my story and my rights; promotion is up to me, and I get to say who my target audience will be; and I didn't have to put up marketing dollars for the project like you do with many traditional publishing companies. For me and my goals, it was definitely the way to go. I would advise anyone who has a story to tell to write it down now so you don't regret some day that you never told it.

Anything else you want people to know about this book?

I want people to know that this is not just another 9/11 story and it's not just my story about that day. Everybody in the country can relate to the message of this book. I was at rock bottom after I lost my brother and the negativity held me down for almost eight years. It dominated my life, but I was finally able to turn the negativity into a positive and bring my life back to levels I'd never reached before. I can look back on September 11 and recognize that my brother sacrificed his life so I can achieve good things. Another message I want to give people is, whatever has happened to you, there is always a way out. You just have to find the negativity, recognize it, embrace it, and you will move your life in a positive direction. I hope one day my daughter will read this book, and she'll have a part of her uncle and a part of me that she may never have had if the project had not been brought to completion.

EXCERPT FROM Face of Courage: Rise from the Rubble

Chapter One: Out of Control

Driven, committed, anxious, angry, frustrated, controlling, guilty, traumatized, haunted by flashbacks: my life is out of control. This new lifestyle of mine has drained my soul, altered the person I was over the last two and a half decades. I wouldn't wish it on my worst enemy.

Since the fall of 2001, I have not slept through the night, relentlessly haunted by thoughts of the biggest tragedy this country has ever witnessed. Tossing and turning, cold sweats, and insomnia have become a nightly ritual because of an event that was beyond my control. Visions of the dead, burning rescue vehicles colossal in size, fire trucks with a gross vehicle weight of over 35,000 pounds, crushed like a soda can that has been compacted by a stomping foot. Remnants of bodies scattered as if discarded by a person who has carelessly littered the streets with trash. Human beings pushed to the point of making a choice: get burned by fire, suffocate by thick black smoke, or plunge over 1,000 feet to their death. Massive fires began to consume surrounding buildings room by room, floor by floor.

These buildings, which once stood one hundred stories tall, were reduced to sixty-foot high piles of rubble and debris. They no longer served the purpose of conducting business or as a symbol of greatness or the city, but as a crushing tomb that claimed the lives of thousands.

A tremendous feeling of helplessness started to overcome my body. I started to experience tunnel vision, everything around me was moving in slow motion. Voices were muffled, not understandable to me. How can this be happening? Where is Michael? Has anyone seen Engine 28 Ladder 11? My life at this moment, that very day, collapsed with the same crippling force as did those buildings.

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