Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Celebrating on 9/11?

It feels a little odd to be happy on September 11.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think the world should stop spinning today. People should go to work and school, do their grocery shopping, eat birthday cake (the biggest piece, with the rose on it).

But today is the release of the third book in my Friend Grief series, Friend Grief and 9/11: The Forgotten Mourners. As I tweeted to a friend yesterday, I’m not always happy with what I write, but I’m happy with and proud of this book.

It turned out a little differently than I expected. It has turned into an advocacy piece, because of the people I interviewed and learned about.

The 9/11 Memorial – a beautiful place everyone should visit – is off-limits every September 11 to all but families. I would never say they had no right to be there on this day, but what about the survivors? What about firefighters pulled from the rubble? What about the man who climbed down 78 floors on a broken leg, after his coworkers were killed by the impact of the plane hitting the South Tower? Don’t they deserve to read the names of their friends who didn’t make it? Don’t they deserve to be there at all?

Friend Grief and 9/11: The Forgotten Mourners is available today on Kobo, Kindle and Nook. The paperback will be released on September 25. Here’s an excerpt:

 

"I'm Brian and I'm a survivor."

When I read Brian Blanco’s responses to my questionnaire, I imagined him saying these words. I didn’t mean it in a flippant way at all, or to suggest that survivors are members of some odd 12-step group. But he opened my eyes to feelings I hadn’t considered.

While the word “victim” is charged with emotion and even politics, the designation “survivor” is also one that people who escaped the Twin Towers may be reluctant to adopt. It’s a word that denotes some kind of accomplishment, and that’s hard to accept:

It took me a long time to put me and the word survivor together, as a matter of fact, I tell people I worked in the building and I was there that day, but I avoid the word survivor…It took me 5 years to come to terms with that and be able to say, “it just wasn’t my time.”

Survivor guilt pops up in nearly every story you hear from people like Brian. Some admit to struggling with it more than a decade later. Others worked through it quickly. Not all were able to cope. But it’s something they all faced on some level.

Wouldn’t you want to survive something as cataclysmic as the September 11 attacks in New York? Of course you would. But as Malachy Corrigan, director of FDNY’s counseling services unit, told New York magazine on the 10th anniversary, “’Why did I survive?’ is still a big question.”

 

2 comments:

ShirleyHS said...

We who were alive then and are alive now are all survivors. Thank you for helping us understand the kind of grief that never disappears but always testifies to the power of love over fear.

Victoria Noe said...

Thanks, Shirley -

You're absolutely right. We are survivors. We are witnesses to history. And it is our duty to keep the memory alive.

The memory of that day will never be pain-free. But it can be hopeful, and that's a huge accomplishment.