Press Release

for I HEARD THE SIRENS SCREAM: How Americans Responded to the 9/11 and Anthrax Attacks by Laurie Garrett

Publisher:  Amazon (e-book)

Est. Pub Date:  July 15, 2011

Copyright:  Laurie Garrett, New York City, 2011

Book Cover Design:  Download high resolution jpg

Media Contact:
Maxine Builder


All of my adult life I have earned my keep by bearing witness. As a journalist, writer, broadcaster and analyst I had endeavored to stand on the outside, looking into history as events unfolded before my eyes.  Epidemics, wars, famines, and grand human struggles have been the paragraphs of my articles and tomes, spanning three decades. I watched, and dissected the steadily expanding plague of our times, starting in 1981 in San Francisco, and eventually all over the AIDS-afflicted world. In Siberia and the Caucasus I studiously noted the falling life expectancies of the post-Cold War masses. In my role in life as objective observer I honed the skills necessary to provide emotional distance from the events that I chronicled.

But September 11th 2001 shattered such refined techniques. Even as I rushed down to the Brooklyn Bridge, and salmon-like made my way upstream, against the tide of humanity, towards attacked Manhattan, I felt profound rage and grief. How dare they destroy our buildings, attack my city, kill my people? How dare they!

The studied exercise in distancing grew even more anemic when a month later I received a phone call from a top federal security official, warning me that I ought not open my mail. I just might, the official alarmingly said, be a target for an anthrax attack.

From Day One, September 11th, I sent a daily missive to a few dozen close friends and colleagues, written in the form of something that mixed my practiced sense of news reporting and objectivity with the much less comfortable diary entry, laden with emotions.  And on the first anniversary of the attacks in 2002 I realized that I needed to know more, hoping to solve great mysteries. I set out to understand:

  • What was in The Plume that New Yorkers inhaled for three months, emanating from the burning Pile that once was the World Trade Center?
  • Who was behind what the FBI dubbed the “Amerithrax” crimes, and why couldn’t the agency catch him/them?
  • How was the psyche of Americans, and especially New Yorkers, affected by the events of 2001, with what lasting impact on us, as a nation and metropolis?
  • Where did the anthrax come from? Who made it?
  • How did the World Trade Center attacks and anthrax mailings connect, or did they?
  • How did the events end up propelling the Bush Administration to wars in Iraq and Afghanistan?
  • Why weren’t masks and protective gear issued to emergency and recovery personnel toiling at New York’s Ground Zero?

No tragedy has riveted humanity on the scale witnessed on September 11, 2001, as four commercial jets were hijacked and turned into deadly missiles. Billions of human beings witnessed the events inspired by al-Qaeda terrorists, seen the world over on television and over the internet.  Because they saw Mohamed Atta and Marwan Al Shehhi pilot United Airlines Flight 11 and American Airlines Flight 175 into the World Trade Center towers, billions of TV and computer viewers believe that they know what transpired. Similarly, because they lived through the saturation coverage of the mysterious anthrax mailings people are inclined to put the events behind them, neatly forgotten.

Ultimately I sought a very personal answer: How had these terrible events changed me, my loved ones, my New York community, my beloved nation, and the world in which we live?

The Book


How Americans Responded to the 9/11 and Anthrax Attacks

Available only as an e-book, through Amazon, I HEARD THE SIRENS SCREAM is a unique achievement in multiple ways. Part memoir, part investigative journalism, and a minute-by-minute account of the nightmare that was the autumn of 2001, this book breaks new ground both in its content, and form. Released before the Tenth Anniversary of the 9/11 and anthrax attacks, I HEARD THE SIRENS SCREAM provides the definitive narrative of what happened between early September 2001 and late January 2002. 

Most observers have viewed the anthrax and al-Qaeda episodes separately, imagining the tragedies were coincident in time, but completely disconnected. In contrast, I HEARD THE SIRENS SCREAM reveals a political, emotional and investigative arc that links the terrorist hijackings and anthrax mailings, and shows that the combined impact impelled the war agenda and heightened anxieties among Americans. The United States of America was utterly transformed by the combination of the al-Qaeda and anthrax attacks.

Revelations abound in this book, which is loaded with “Wow!” moments. Whether you were 10, 30, 50, or 80 years old when these events transpired, I HEARD THE SIRENS SCREAM will stun you. The result of an eight year investigating and writing sojourn, Part One of the book reads like watching a movie, as the events unfold day by terrible day. In Part Two of the book Garrett reveals what was actually in The Plume that blew up from the World Trade Center cauldron for three months, inhaled by millions of rescue and clean-up workers, as well as residents and workers that lived and toiled downwind of the toxic air. The details of the anthrax investigation, as well as how individuals reacted to the spore-filled envelopes, are unveiled. The impact of these traumas on the psyche and mental health of hundreds of thousands of people in Washington and New York City was significantly more profound than is generally appreciated. And the political lessons derived from the events were largely incorrect, Garrett argues.

Why is this available exclusively in digital, e-book form? In part this is due to contractual limitations with another publisher, for a different book. And in part it is because Garrett chooses to embrace the possibilities presented by the digital book era, including the potential of linking text (this book) with images and interactive programming. Garrett is under contract with Harmony Books, a division of Random House, for a traditionally published book, but Harmony decided a 9/11-oriented manuscript would not sell, and contractually ordered Garrett to produce a different book. But Garrett could not shake the import and emotional power of the events of 2001, and felt strongly that the material had to see the light of day before the tenth anniversary, 9/11/11. After lengthy legal negotiations Harmony agreed to “allow” publication of I HEARD THE SIRENS SCREAM on the grounds that it would not appear in print form. Thanks to this unusual agreement, Garrett plunged into the world of e-publishing, finding the experience both invigorating and deeply difficult (and costly). E-publishing may be the future, but at this moment every aspect of the technology, marketing, literary review, and long term survival of e-books is changing daily amid a complex and competitive environment: Authors must be bold, and beware.

Visit the companion experience to I HEARD THE SIRENS SCREAM on our website, at, where never-before-seen photographs of the events can be viewed. Add your personal 9/11 story to the site, and your review of this book. Follow Garrett on Facebook and Twitter.

On this Tenth Anniversary of the events that have defined the early 21st Century, I HEARD THE SIRENS SCREAM offers history, catharsis, indignation and humanity.

The Author

Laurie Garrett has received the Pulitzer Prize, Peabody, George C. Polk (twice) and four Overseas Press Club Awards for her work as a journalist and author. Other books by Garrett include bestsellers THE COMING PLAGUE: Newly Emerging Diseases in a World Out of Balance (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1994) and BETRAYAL OF TRUST: The Collapse of Global Public Health (Hyperion, 2000). Garrett grew up in Los Angeles, graduated with honors from the University of California in Santa Cruz, and was named Alum of the Year in 1995, and one of the Forty Greatest Alums in 2010. She did graduate work in immunology, research at UC Berkeley and Stanford University, and was a postgraduate Fellow in the Harvard School of Public Health. She began her journalism career at KPFA radio in Berkeley, followed by freelancing work in sub-Saharan Africa. In the 1980s she was a Science Correspondent for National Public Radio, and during the 1990s she worked both as a science and foreign reporter for Newsday in New York. 

Since 2004 Garrett has been Senior Fellow for Global Health at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York. She lives in Brooklyn, and is an avid urban cyclist. Visit for a more detailed biography.