New book by Czech journalist looks back at 9/11 and more

This week, the world is remembering the victims of the 9/11 terrorist attacks in the United States. To mark the anniversary, a book was launched in Prague on Monday, written by Czech journalist Veronika Bednarova, who actually was very close to the World Trade Center at the time of the tragedy. In her book, whose title translates as "My American Beauty" she gives her personal account of the tragedy but also much more.

Veronika Bednarova
Excerpts from "My American Beauty" were read out in a Prague bookstore on Monday, describing the first hours after the planes crashed into the World Trade Center Towers, as seen through the eyes of the then Czech Fulbright student, Veronika Bednarova.

"Well, I was living at Greenwich Dormitory in Greenwich Street which is very close to the World Trade Center, it is I would say one mile maximum. I was taking a shower when a colleague of mine from the third floor called. He was shouting: 'Come outside, there is a plane accident at the World Trade Center.' I thought he was joking but I came out because there was a lot of noise and suddenly I saw that there were actually two planes in both of the WTC towers and then I pretty much spent the entire day trying to help the people who survived.

"None of us had any idea how many people actually died because we were trying to give water and accommodate a little bit the people who survived and didn't have anything. And obviously, there was a lot of noise and a lot of smoke. We couldn't breathe for the entire week, basically."

The book is based on reports Veronika Bednarova has written over the past few years during her stays in the United States and is accompanied by photographs by Jan Sibik, a renowned Czech war photographer.

Also present at the book launch was the Czech-American architect Jiri Boudnik, who was taking part in the rescue and cleanup operations at Ground Zero in the wake of the tragedy, designing three-dimensional models of the collapsed structures.

Jiri Boudnik,  photo:
"I set out to build a three-dimensional computer model, one which would be able to show which columns were still intact, which were compromised by the debris. And based on this computer model we were able to direct cranes in their operations in removing the debris from the epicentre. So after six months, when we removed most of the debris, I stopped working there."

The author of "My American Beauty" Veronika Bendarova describes her book as a travelogue which could serve as an additional guidebook to Czechs who are travelling to the United States. Jiri Boudnik believes that the book would merit an English translation.

"When Tocqueville came to the United States, I believe in 1830, and wrote a kind of overview of what America was about for the European audience - when it was translated into English, it was an eye-opener for all Americans. Bernard Levi-Strauss did that just recently, in the footprints of Tocqueville and I believe, Veronika is our Czech Tocqueville. I believe that her keen observation skills, sharp eye and wit would be very helpful to Americans. It would almost serve as a mirror into which they could look at themselves."