Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Writing About September 11

I haven't written a lot about September 11, at least not much in my poetry and fiction.  I can think of about 3 poems of mine that reference September 11.  It was only in the past 6 months that I've done much with Sept. 11 in my fiction.

I'm writing a series of linked short stories, and they often go in directions I don't expect.  I thought I was going to write a story about a woman at midlife who was having an unusual midlife crisis:  "I felt my midlife crisis nibbling at the edge of my day, but it wasn’t the midlife crisis I’d been trained to expect.  I loved my husband, loved my daughters, loved our home life.  My job as an HR expert wasn’t thrilling, but I did it well, and I’d been around enough HR departments to realize that few people did HR work well.  What was making me feel vaguely edgy and dissatisfied as I watched Adam and my daughters work at learning the song I once adored best in the world?"

I didn't anticipate that Jo, the main character speaking in that passage, would resolve her midlife crisis in the way that she did, and I didn't plan on using the events of September 11 at all.  But I did, and in the short story that I was writing last week, Sept. 11 surfaces again.

Last week's story is about Jo's granddaughter, who is at the end of her teens and has decided to take time to explore her artistic passions.  This part of the story is narrated by her father:

"'You know, your mother’s mother had a brief time in the art spotlight. Something to do with hands and September 11.'

'September 11?'

'You remember, when planes flew into the Pentagon and into two towers of the World Trade Center?” When my daughter shook her head, I shook my own head too. “What are they teaching you kids in schools these days?'

'Don’t get off track, Daddy. I think we’re in agreement about my shoddy education. Back to Grandma’s art career.'"

The story takes place in the late 2030's, a time when 2001 will be a distant memory.  Even now, when it's not a distant memory, 2001 is getting to be some time ago.  It's interesting to think about how future generations will interpret the events of Sept. 11, 2001.  Will it be seen as minor, in light of horrors yet to come?  Will it be seen as one terrorist event in a long string of terrorist events?

As a fiction writer, I can speculate.  As a human, I wish I could know.

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