Recorder of Deeds

Terrorism and Trauma: A Journalist’s Life-Changing Choice on 9/11

“My father died in a desert. My mother drown in a bed. An intruder broke into their home, fouled every room. Bulldozers rumbled up the drive, took the place to ground. And yet Thornhill stands to this day in my memory, in my heart.”

Bathed in morning sunlight, pinned to a highway emptied of traffic, I slump alongside strangers in a world that has crossed over from the existential to the surreal, a helpless observer to a mythic event beyond comprehension. Thoughts swizzle and spin away as I stare at the void where the South Tower was and see it still, its thin, bleached verticals rising as before in parallel perfection. It is nothing, a ghostly afterimage, like the lingering sight of a spent sparkler on a Fourth of July night.

This is my story. I tell it now as I lived it then.

Catherine Underhill Fitzpatrick

Faced with a decision–sit in a hotel room and watch a world-changing catastrophe unfold on television or race to the desperation at the foot of the island and file eye-witness bulletins− I took to the streets. On the morning of September 11, 2001, a fashion writer from Wisconsin who was in New York to cover runway shows rewrote the boundaries of professional responsibility.

The Recorder of Deeds is my unflinching account of a journalist who risked everything to bring out news of terrorism and heroism during one of the darkest days in America. It is also a story of how my reportage came at a cost: symptoms of post-traumatic stress affected my personal life as well as my career long afterward.

With lush narration and the flash and flare of real-time emails, my memoir reprises a decade peppered with triumphs and tragedies. My father died in a desert. My mother drowned in a bed. An intruder desecrated their home. One brother squandered a fortune. Another made a fortune. A sister lost her mind and then her life. I lost my job. Daughters completed college, embarked on careers, fell in love, and married.

In prose that is alternately searing and elegiac,  Recorder of Deeds explores universal themes of hope, despair, obligation, and boundless, selfless love.

Sweeping from the Waldorf’s Starlight Ballroom to the inferno at Ground Zero, from a beloved home in a Midwest suburb to a Death Row cellblock in the middle of nowhere, this is a memoir that proves those who write about others have riveting stories of their own to tell.

To order a signed, first edition copy of The Recorder of Deeds, use the Contact Catherine page on this web site.