On the morning of September 11, 2001 I was woken by a phone call from a good friend in San Francisco. “Wake up” she said, “Turn on the television”.
I put it on and at this point the speculation was that it was a terror attack from Palestinian forces. I kept watching. Then my two-year-old woke up and all he wanted to do was go into the front yard and dig in the dirt.
I received many worried phone calls from home on that day. My family had witnessed the attacks live on their television screens while I was still sleeping and even though they knew that we were in California, on the other side of the country, they couldn’t help but be concerned.
We lived near a US air base and in the months that followed every time those planes flew low over our backyard I jumped. I kept on with life as normal but every outing to a large public place was marred by a slight sense of unease. Thankfully, my son was too young to have any real awareness of what was going on.
I remember for a period of time after 9/11 writers talking of feeling frozen, abandoning work that no longer seemed important in the face of this horrible new reality. I am glad that in the intervening years those same writers did find their voices again and have given us works of fiction that explore the events of 9/11 from many different perspectives. But at the ten year mark I still have that sense of not quite knowing what to say, or of perhaps not having a right to say anything much at all.
Following 9/11 I spent a lot of time just reading, from the obituaries that the New York Times ran for months on end honouring each individual who had died in the attacks to the Opinion pieces that often left me struggling, with far more questions than answers.
My instinct at the ten-year mark is to do the same again, reading and listening to the stories of those whose lives were so radically altered by the terrible events of that day. And I will also be spending time talking about the event and it’s aftermath with my now 12-year-old son who is no longer so interested in playing in the dirt.
(This is the sixth in the series. I hope you take the time to read those that came before and the ones to follow.)