I will never forget being there. The tall grasses swayed as the beautiful wildflowers danced in time with the wind. A mammoth rock marked the position of Flight 93’s point of impact. A long marble wall of names stood along the lengthy path.

At the beginning of the long walkway was a photo lineup of those who had died in the Pennsylvania hills when at 10:03 a.m. the plane crashed, after traveling at 563 miles per hour into the Somerset County field. All 33 passengers, seven crewmembers and four hijackers perished. The Boeing 757 bound for San Francisco was no more. The debris field, which was huge, is now cordoned off with concrete walls and appears placid in the warm sun, unlike that horrendous day 16 years ago.

Michael Benfante in his remarkably vivid memoir, Reluctant Hero, tells the story of his experiences on that sunny day in NYC. He was a manager of a telecommunications company on the 81st floor of the North Tower when the first plane struck just 12 floors above. With a junior salesman, John Cerqueira, at his side, the former college football star rounded up his employees (all of whom survived) and headed for the crowded staircase. But on the 68th floor they encountered a woman in a wheelchair. He and his young comrade decided to carry the woman down 68 floors. As they exited the building, the tower collapsed. Benfante knew that the woman he carried was secured in an ambulance, and his coworker and he survived by dashing under a nearby truck.

Reading the young executive’s book was an in-depth look at 9/11. Although I’ve seen the Twin Towers on various occasions, first standing proud and tall, later as a huge mound of debris called Ground Zero, and later still as a glorious memorial, Benfante takes the reader there in a way I had not yet fathomed. His minute-by-minute struggle, his ensuing depression and anxiety, his unwanted and difficult-to-tolerate heroism, all resonated with a refreshingly real perspective.

As the Towers fell, as the Pentagon was attacked, as the Boeing 757 crashed into the tranquil field in Pennsylvania, America reeled.

And yet Benfante remarks, "On 9/11, I didn’t check the political affiliation, classify the social rank, or evaluate the business advantage of the woman I saw marooned in the wheelchair. Neither did the man who sensed my panic under that truck and assured me I’d be OK. Neither did the firemen ... I was there in the Towers, surrounded by the unspeakably real death and destruction, but also witness to incredibly true and present acts of sacrifice and heroism."

Although America is still haunted by 9/11, perhaps we can somehow learn something from that notion of acceptance and giving. Of heroism and love. Perhaps we can learn about peace. Yes, dear God, peace.