An inspiring author will be told to write what you know. As a fiction writer, conceptualizing new worlds and situations never experienced, you must dig deeper. You must use your imagination to compel your soul to feel each scene, from each characters perspective. To force the adrenaline through your veins, to experience that panic attack, to feel those tears fill your eyes. That is what I do. That is how I write.
So when I see those messages and pictures with subtitles of “Remember 9/11” and “We will never forget” – these invoke feelings significantly deeper for me.
For someone who wasn’t there, but watching from the comfort of her living room, I remember all too well every moment – the fear, the worry, the shock, how it swept through me. I called everyone, my mom, my dad, my grandparents. When the first plane hit, you prayed for the passengers and people in the building. You wondered what happened to the pilot, had there been a medical issue? When the second plane hit you realized what this truly was. The anger mixed with the tears, the worry increased. You began to wonder what was going to happen next. The reports were growing; the Pentagon, Pennsylvania, rumors of more hijackings.
That truly was a day I will never forget.
But as a writer, as someone who can imagine situations from all perspectives, I take that feeling further. I consider the awareness of the people trapped in the stories above the planes; making their way towards the emergency exit stairs, through billowing smoke, burning their eyes, only to discover they couldn’t go down. I think about the people below the planes; sardined in the stairwells, pressing their way through, in the dark, no windows to see what is happening, no radio to hear reports of what is occurring outside, screams and cries echoing through a thousand foot tunnel of people and concrete stairs. Praying they’ll make it down in time.
I think about the spouse watching on TV from the safety of their home or work, worried sick about their other half. Trying to determine where their loved one is in the building. Attempting to count the stories of the building, trying to determine if they were above, below or at the point of impact. Calling them over and over again only to hear “all circuits are busy”. I can feel their apprehension as each minute ticks by, glued to the television, gripping their cell phone tightly within their palms. Constantly glancing down at it, praying it will ring, hoping for a sign.
As a children’s author…
Yet, as a children’s author, I also think about this tragedy from the perspective of an unknowing child, oblivious of anything but the pop-up quiz, what’s for lunch, and how long until recess? I start to consider the confusion when their friends are being dragged out of class by their parents, tear-stained cheeks and wild-eyes. Being told what is happening or not being told, the complete upheaval of their expected day and then later, being told your mom or dad would not be coming home. I remember what it was like to be a child, how long and difficult each day was, the uneasiness as you await your parents arrival at night to show them that failed test you need to get signed, and then I take that feeling and amplify it.
From someone who has lost so many family members over the years, I can attest to the importance of open casket funerals. No matter how morbid it may seem, even though they never really look like they did when they were alive – seeing them, in that state, helps to receive closure, significantly. From someone who did not get to see her father, there is still, a year later, that disbelief that he is really gone. There is still a small twinge of hope that he’ll call or walk through that door.
All these years later, I admit even imagining those children of lost loved ones, who were told daddy wouldn’t be coming home, attempting to understand and accept this or refusing, holding onto hope that maybe daddy was just injured and lost, maybe he has amnesia, maybe someday, he’ll recover, remember, and walk back through that door… as I’ve imagined over and over again.
When I remember 9/11 – when I watch those scenes unfold as they replay in their compilation videos each year – I look at the faces of the people. I take in the trauma in the eyes of those walking stone statues covered in soot. I see the people running and feel their fear as they are terrified to turn around to see that billowing cloud of debris barreling towards them. I see the disorientation of the students standing next to President Bush, having smiled with excitement for this auspicious visit, only to hear a terrorist attack has taken place and not having a clue how to respond because even the teachers you look up to are flabbergasted. I even think about the reporters, whose voices can be heard cracking as their emotions are caught in their throat; knowing they need to provide the news, unbiased and straight, and yet, they too are terrified.
Finally, I see the people in the crowd, holding their pictures of lost loved ones, asking over and over again, if anyone has seen them. Adding names to a list, photos to a wall, hopes to a dream. The pain in my heart is real as I recall that morning. I can’t even presume to know what those people felt and continue to feel today – but I can imagine… and that is not something I’d ever want to share.