Where were you?

Seven years ago today, I was out in my backyard office here in Atlanta, trying, as I’m trying now, to finish a book. When I have my head in a book, I deliberately try to blot out the world. No television, no lunch dates, just me and the book. I think my husband called. “Go in the house and turn on the news,” he said. So I did. And I watched–along with the rest of the world–in absolute horror. I never liked science fiction movies–too scary for me. But this was like watching a science fiction movie gone horribly, horribly, real. I didn’t write again that day. Maybe not all week. It’s impossible to write funny, flip fiction when your heart is broken. I called my editor and agent in New York, to reassure myself that they were ok. Later, I talked with other writer friends around the country. Those who lived in New York were not really ok. They couldn’t work. Certainly couldn’t write. Couldn’t laugh. Those terrorists took all that from us that day, along with all the beautiful, productive lives lost, they took our laughter, our sense that no matter what happens, something silly will come along, and we’ll forget our troubles for a little while. I remember another catastrophic day too–the day JFK was assasinated. I was out of school sick that day, and had gone with my mother to my aunt’s beauty parlor. My mom had a standing appointment every week to have her hair done–hey, it was the ’60s. Somebody turned on the radio, and we heard the news that the president had been shot in Dallas, and that he’d been rushed to a hospital. We left, and went to the A&P, and at some point, the store manager went on the loudspeaker, and announced that President Kennedy was dead. My mother was crying–and my mother never cried. She and I left the store and went to our church, where we lit candles and prayed. And cried. I was in the third grade. President Kennedy was our president. He was Irish and Catholic, like us. I still cry when I see that old photo of Jackie and Caroline and John-John–with John-John saluting his fallen father. What can we do in the face of all this evil, all the bad news we hear every morning? I don’t know about you, but I’ve decided I’ll do something good today. I’ll continue trying to finish this funny, flip book of mine, because that’s my job. Making people laugh. And when I go out to do my errands, I’ll make a mitzvah–a good deed. Just because I can.

1 thought on “Where were you?”

  1. I was on my way to New Orleans. I stopped at a truck stop to get coffee and pee and there were grown men, big burley trucker men standing around a 13″ Television with tears flowing down their cheeks. It was overwhelming and sureal. When I arrived in NOLA it was a ghost town. Bourban street was empty and so was my heart.

    It lifted my heart when I saw the way the city of New York and the people across our great nation pull together. It is a shame that it didn’t last.

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