Thursday, February 09, 2006

How You Remind Me

I've noticed that a number of recently published books have incorporated the events of 9/11 into the narrative. Perhaps it's natural that this would happen. Perhaps the general feeling is that enough time has passed to give us some perspective on the events and that it's time to start capturing the events in a less emotional, more rational way.

To be honest, I'm kind of on the fence about the whole thing. I recognize that date is, for many of us, the defining moment for our generation but using it as a life changing moment at times seems lazy and manipulative. It's as if these authors want so badly to make a deep and meaningful statement about the personal impact that it had on people that they create stories just to illustrate it. Conversely, it sometimes seems that the author knew they needed a dramatic turning point for an otherwise ordinary story, so they re-set the time period to autumn 2001 and they were all set.

A few months back I read a book that dealt with the events in a very different way. In fact, in some quarters the author was critiqued for the way in which the characters spent a few days struggling with the tragedy - trying to make sense of it while simultaneously taking stock of their own lives - before settling back to a nearly normal life almost immediately. At first I could see the point, but then when I thought about it I realized that that's almost exactly what happened for many of us. The first day I spent in my office trying to track down people from my firm who may have been in the area. I was in the office until nearly midnight and after accounting for everyone, I took the train home and sat in stunned silence and disbelief for the entire ride. The next day I worked from home as the city was shut down. By the next week, things had pretty much returned to normal. So much so, in fact, that it reminders of the events - such as seeing crushed, dust covered cars on flatbeds or getting off the train, seeing a crowded parking lot and realizing that many of the owners were likely victims of the WTC collapse - were actually quite jarring. Then there were the wakes and funerals to attend over the next few weeks as it seemed that everyone either knew someone or knew someone that knew someone that was killed during the collapse.

As a rule, I tend to steer away from books, movies, and shows about 9/11, so when I'm caught by surprise when a book mentions it, it's almost like re-living the entire time period. Maybe I'm in denial, but I'd just prefer not to be reminded.