I have read your book, actually more than a month ago. I wanted to write to you with my reflections on the book sooner. It has been a problem for me to sit down and take the time to thoroughly write down my thoughts, emotions and reactions to the "event" - this letter is too short...but.. I am stunned over the work you must have put into research creating this sad documentary.
Where did you find all this information on all the different families whereabouts before and during the fire - surviving family, friends? How many years did it take you to complete the book?
I found myself being very distressed and sometimes very sad as I read along, hoping for everybody’s souls (so many young people died, it broke my heart every time a new story ended tragically!). But also at the same time, I felt happy when folks eventually made it to safety, one way or another.
I don’t think I have ever read a book quite like "The Winecoff Fire". It is in some ways exciting and in many ways disturbing due to all the tragic deaths, especially the young people. AND the fact that to this day, nobody knows the true story; arson, revenge, or simple human error.... Also, I know I will definitely read the book again - don’t ask me why, I just know it. Few books I have ever read (I read a lot) have gotten that "status" - this one does.
I was on a pleasure trip to Rome, Italy with my wife and some friends last month, and I found myself checking and checking again for fire exits and stairways when we checked in to the hotel. I told my wife what to do and where to go in case of a fire, remembering your book all too clearly, knowing that even though we shared the same room, we might not be able to find each other in the smoke and panic.
I thought of the Winecoff every day of that vacation. My thoughts go to all the victims and their families of that fire. I could go on and on about this, but I would just like to tell you it is a fantastic book, fantastic work and fantastic research. I hope somewhere somehow it has helped survivors and victims' families find peace.
Per D. Kristensen
Thanks for your kind words about our book. Yes, we did learn a great deal from the families and friends of the victims but we learned the most from the survivors themselves.
Each one we interviewed, without exception, told their stories in a tone of reverence and as if the fire had occurred very recently. Most had forgotten little. It remained fresh in their minds.
Often staring at a midpoint in space, each one spoke in a cadence that suggested that a sense of shock had never really left them. It was a humbling experience. It sometimes gave me the shakes. It always made me thankful.
The book took about eight years to finish. There were several stops and starts and some periods of despair when it seemed as if we had bitten off too much. The funny thing is, the work has never really stopped. New information about the fire comes to us still and people rely on us to keep up with it all. We try.
We remain convinced that the fire was intentionally set.
I'm glad to read that you are more alert to fire safety in hotels and other buildings. The exact same thing happened to me. I check for fire exits everywhere I go now. I look out for sprinkler systems. They have an amazing safety track record.
We too hope our book has brought some peace to those affected by the Winecoff fire.
Friday, June 22, 2007