“On Sept. 11, 2001, Mike Dobbs’ life was forever changed. Reeling from his nightmare experience in New York’s subway as the twin towers collapsed, he retreats from his high-power Wall Street life to his run-down country house. Coping with PTSD he resorts to single malt Scotch to dull the memories of death and destruction. Soon he is embroiled in the life of Eileen Benoit and her 7-year old daughter Megan as they flee Eileen’s abusive ex-husband. Suddenly Mike is thrown into a world he knows nothing about, and he is forced to answer the question, how far would you go for someone you love?”
Author Neil Douglas Newton was trapped in the subway beneath the streets of New York City when the World Trade Center towers collapsed. He’d been evacuated with others from his office in lower Manhattan and was persuaded by a nervous co-worker to board the northbound subway. In retrospect, this was a life-changing decision. Had he opted to follow his instincts and walk uptown to his apartment he might have been on the streets when that ominous cloud of dust ad debris spread across the landscape, joining the other New Yorkers who tried to flee what appeared as a storm of death.
Whether his experience in that subway car with terrified commuters who prayed and cried was more nightmarish than what he might have seen above ground is debatable. It is unlikely he could even answer that question.
Taking that experience and incorporating it into a thriller that chastises the legal system for its lack of responsibility in returning children to abusive parents, Newton has penned a book that examines such touchy subjects as PTSD, alcoholism, and of course, child sexual abuse.
On the anniversary of the attacks, Newton recalls the day it happened. It is not a day he will ever forget. His health was negatively impacted by the debris he inhaled that day as he hurried through darkened streets in a cloud of death. But more damaging was the memory imprinted in his mind.
When you read his book, “The Railroad”, keep in mind that the descriptions of Mike Dobbs’ experience in the subway are based on Newton’s reality. It has been re-released with a new cover by designer Rachel Bostwick who has captured the soul of the tale.
Ask yourself, what would you do if were in Mike Dobbs’ place in that subway car? How do you think your life would be changed? And lastly, how was your life changed on that clear and beautiful September day in New York City?
Neil Douglas Newton is one of the authors with Dragonfly Books. His first novel, “The Railroad“, was inspired by his experiences in New York City during the terrorist attacks on 9/11. The following is his blog about how that day and child abuse came together to create an emotional and suspenseful work of fiction. Dragonfly Books
“Two years ago I was lucky enough to have a book published, “The Railroad”. While it is fiction, I have a more personal connection to the story than might be apparent to anyone who reads it.
The story was inspired by 9/11 or, more specifically, my experiences on September 11, 2001. I am a New Yorker and was working a few blocks south of the Twin Towers back then. I found myself in the subway only a block and a half from the World Trade Center as the towers went down. I emerged into a false night as the dust-covered lower Manhattan. Eventually I was fortunate enough to walk north to my home in Chelsea, cheating the death that had met so many that day.
The memory of 9/11 is fading, something that is disturbing but
something I consider to be part of the healing process. There are things left
to remind us of what happened; positive things like the new World Trade
Center and negative things like first responders who have succumbed to
respiratory illnesses that our government is just beginning to admit are a
result of breathing in the toxic soup that came out of 9/11. If there are true
heroes of 9/11, the police, fire, and medical rescue workers are certainly the
It’s hard to explain the sense of loss that followed that day; an oppressive hopelessness on a surreal stage. In the months that followed I thought about loss and pain and transformation. Out of that came the book,“The Railroad”. The book incorporates child abuse as a theme, something that fit, in my mind, with the experience of watching the world fall apart. I have found that, as time has passed, I have spent less time trying to sell the book and have used it more as a platform for making people aware of child abuse and domestic abuse. I am still working in that direction and have not marketed the book in the traditional way.
One of the realities of writing is that you often don’t know why you’ve added certain elements to a story. In “The Railroad” I touch both on 9/11 and, more substantially, on the issue of child abuse. I had to ask myself why both these topics became part of the book, almost as if they were connected. There is nothing necessarily profound about writing. An author has incidents and issues jumbled up in his or her head and often connections appear between things that may not seem obvious on the surface.
9/11 and child abuse? It was the horrific shootings in Colorado
that made me understand why these two things seemed connected to me. The issue
We are all given so many resources: so many years of life in an
unknown quantity, so many opportunities to make our dreams a reality, so many
chances to form relationships that are important in our lives. In the weeks
after 9/11, I had to grapple with what I’d lost. Fortunately it wasn’t the loss
of any loved ones or even acquaintances. In the end it was the loss of my home
town.Of course, New York didn’t disappear that day; the area affected by 9/11
was geographically small.
It might be hard for all of you to believe a New Yorker would
see his or her city as the same safe haven that someone in a small town would.
Certainly there is more danger in day to day life in New York. But I never
would have thought that my city, large and imposing as it is, could be as
vulnerable as it was on 9/11.
I remember telling someone only days after 9/11 that I thought
that someone had stolen my city. In the wake of the destruction, the predatory
news crews from all over the world, the disconcerting break in our routines, I
felt more like a freak in a sideshow than I did a New Yorker.
Child abuse, physical and sexual, is a theft of another kind.
For victims of child abuse, there is often no safe haven to lose in the
first place and the assumptions of trust that act as a foundation of being
human are ripped away. The aftermath of child abuse can be even bleaker
than the original theft of trust at the hands of abusers. The issue here is the
slow, insidious way that the dysfunction of child abuse leeches the sense of
purpose out of life. It separates us from our fellow men and shrinks our view
of the world until we can only see a few feet in front of us. Every person I’ve
known or people I’ve seen interviewed who were victims of abuse always talk
about the parts of themselves they have lost. While some people have taken the
awful lemons of abuse and made lemonade by helping other victims and telling
their own stories, there are many more who suffer in silence, who may never
learn to be dancers, musicians, teachers. Whatever dreams they might have
normally pursued are barred to them in ways that even they can’t understand. This
is theft in its most basic form; it’s a theft that is built into the fabric of
someone’s life and it can make loss and failure seem inevitable. For many abuse
victims, their problems become a moving target that often defies both
understanding and healing.
Is it so hard to understand why some people are so zealous about
removing the blight of child abuse from our society? All of us carry fears from
our childhood that make us less than we could be. For a victim of child abuse
those fears and constraints become constant companions limiting the scope of
what they can do. Our prisons are filled with victims of child abuse and
medicating the beasts that live within us has become a thriving industry.
The loss to our society is incalculable and it’s one that I believe
we have been willing to bear because a solution seems so far out of reach. It
shouldn’t be surprising that there are dozens of agencies and organizations
dedicated to attacking the issues surrounding child abuse, domestic violence,
bullying, and countless other social problems. I have come to believe that
avoiding these issues will cripple our society in ways that we can’t imagine.
People have expressed these ideas far more eloquently than I can. This quote comes from a poem, “Maud Muller”, by John Greenleaf Whittier:
“For of all sad words of tongue or
pen, The saddest are these: “It might have been”.
If we take these words to heart the awful consequences of child abuse of any kind become all the more tragic.” Neil Douglas Newton