Everyone's nightmares and memories about the Sept. 11 attacks on the World Trade Center are important. And every year a few people and their memories are deemed more important than everyone else's—not survivors or rescuers, just folks who had been in New York, somewhere, at the time. And every year we're expected to read their important memories in periodicals like The New York Times and The New Yorker. And every year it's just very sad, strangely insulting, not soothing and, in the end, rarely enlightening. There's this, for instance: "I remember the weekend before. A friend was visiting. We went to Chinatown for dinner on Mulberry Street, then walked north to Little Italy, stumbling into the Feast of San Gennaro. My friend kept eating things, suddenly in street-food heaven. I remember him gnawing on a big brick of nougat. I remember I had dinner plans for Tuesday. I remember the general panic, my wife and me stocking up at the Food Emporium a block from our Upper East Side apartment, buying provisions almost at random. (Salmon steaks — why not?)."
After 9/11, I abruptly abandoned a novel (a lighthearted comedy!) I was working on. Any meaningful fiction, I decided, would have to address the attacks; at any rate, a lighthearted comedy would not go anywhere in such a climate.
A few months later, out of nowhere, I devised a plot involving trapped survivors, working myself into a mild frenzy over the idea before realizing, in silent embarrassment, that it pretty much recapitulated the major points of Graham Greene’s “End of the Affair,” set during the London blitz [...]
Another friend writes: “I think after about the fourth anniversary I actually had to make myself remember that that day was the day. And this didn’t sadden me (or make me feel like a monster); rather it made me feel sort of impressed, actually, that something that I experienced as so horrible could actually recede into the safety of history. Now it can be experienced on two planes — intellectual and emotional.” [NYT]
Yes, thanks for that.