Study Guide: Listening Is an Act of Love

B. Reading the Stories

2. JOSEPH DITTMAR interviewed by Storycorps facilitator RANI SHANKAR

Pre-reading statement of opinion:  Do you agree that bearing witness to an horrific tragedy by communicating one’s own observations and feelings is important for self-preservation?  Why or why not?

Post-reading guided summary:  Explain why Joseph was in New York, and not his home town, Chicago, and how he and his colleagues reacted to the security guard’s order to evacuate.  Describe what Joseph means by the “‘I want my mommy’ feeling” (219), and why he had that feeling.  Determine why simple actions to go to the bathroom when the main goal was to walk down the stairs and get out of the tower bore fatal consequences for some people.  Consider why a “stunned silence,” rather than “pandemonium” (221) was the best description of the activity under way.  Tell how Joseph’s instincts about the tragic circumstances were confirmed when he saw the firefighters, the police, and the paramedics “going into basically the bowels of hell” (223).  Describe Joseph’s definition of an “American hero” (223).  Share his example of his “favorite character” (223) and explain why his actions reminded him of the story of the Titanic.  Comment on the biblical reference that he made when recalling what he saw when he got to the bottom of the tower.  Describe the “two sounds that haunt [him]” (225) every day now.  Tell why it was good to see and talk to family members on his trip home to Chicago and how his wife’s typical “nondemonstrative” (227) behavior changed when he reunited with her in the church.

Personal response:  Write your reaction to one or two aspects of the summary you have written, and try to connect this response to the opinion that you expressed before reading the StoryCorps transcript.