A Chronicle of Contemporary History??

Although I’m not quite ready to begin drafting any of the fictitious “conversations” with my father, I have been thinking about what they might sound like.  What I might say to him.  And he to me.  The thought of spending countless hours “interacting” with my father again (even in an imagined space) is exciting. And moving. Already, it seems somehow “real” to me. It like I’m saving the best part of the meal for the last bite.  In my mind it’s as though (in a very short time) I will get to speak to my father again. After 16 years.

At first, I didn’t think this project was really about “coping with loss,” but now I don’t see how it can’t.  I guess I thought that after 16 years it was kind of silly for me to be talking about dealing with the loss of a loved one.  But, to be honest, I don’t think I ever had the chance to mourn his death. You might think that having the world recognize 9-11 would aid in my healing process. In some ways it did, but in others it had the opposite effect.  When my dad died, so did many others. Ones who became publically-proclaimed heroes for their roles in the tragedy.  Not mine.  He was “just a victim.”  I had to share my day with them.  9-11 never was and never will be just “the day my father died.”  I was selfish, maybe.  I wanted a day where I could be sad for me and only me. Mourning didn’t come right away, too, because we (as a family) had to decide when to give up on the hope that my father might be found alive.  We had to decide to bury an empty casket.  And then excavate it to put in what remains of his were found many months later. (I wonder what that conversation will sound like) Another thing people might not realize is how words insensitive words their words can sound.  In the months after 9-11, if someone I didn’t know that well found out that my father died in the World Trade Center, 99% of the time the first question out of their mouths would be “was he a firefighter?”  I then would have to apologetically shake my head “no.” In that moment, I could usually feel their sympathy diminish ever-so-slightly and in their eyes, a consolation prize of compassion..

Sorry for the tangent. As you can see, I have a lot bottled up.

me in paper

So, back to the project:  Yes, I could analyze and reflect on my process for creating and maintaining a realistic version of my father through the different modes of communication over time. But that’s not it.  That may be a part of what this project is really about. I have this desire to document history in a way, too. I have been rummaging through old boxes filled with tons of 9-11 related artifacts-many of them about my father or other members of my family.  I have the need to preserve them beyond the box.  Also, things have happened over the years that only people directly related to 9-11 would know and understand.  These things need to be shared. Today, there are things I get in the mail and that I’m involved in that stem from my connection to September 11th. I am thinking more and more that this might end up becoming a sort of historical-fiction/memoir hybrid.  The validating part for me is that there are very few people who are in the position to create such a story.  Yes, there have been many 9/11 family members’ memoirs written.  But few like this.  Few from a daughter’s view.  Few in recent years.  None, to my current knowledge, have been written through this fictionalized conversational lens.  And few to none that care to capture some of the nuanced details of what family members go through: from holding handmade “missing person” signs on the side of the street in the days that followed, to filling out paperwork on the piers in Manhattan in the weeks that followed, to being asked to speak at the trials of one of the terrorists in the years that followed.   At first, I didn’t think these would be the topics I would might choose to talk about with my father (if I had the chance) but the 16-year time element changes things. Also, he would have to know that my brother no longer speak to each other.  Because of 9/11.

Who will tell these stories?  If not me now, then who?  When?  

I can’t imagine doing anything else for my thesis.  At this point, there’s no going back.

 

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3 thoughts on “A Chronicle of Contemporary History??

  1. There is no going back, means you are on your way. I am proud of you and so fortunate to be witness to your journey, Laura.

    This is going to be important work for the way you weave the history and the imagined conversations; it’s maybe less fiction that extrapolation, all rooted in real characters,

    In reading I am thinking about the challenge of constructing conversations, that maybe the modality is not direct conversation, which might require the leap of “how is she communicating with her father, he with her” and maybe it’s more each imagining the ones they might have, or what they might say though time if they could converse, that it starts as a yearning for the conversations, but over time it starts to feel like it could be. It could be even be left to the reader to imagine if you and he are conversing, and take off the table having to explain or suggest the “how is this happening?”

    I’m also wondering, if in parallel to your conversations moving through times and modes of communication, if you might have a parallel thread of what was happening in the world, communicated through the same modes. It might help to suggest not only the passage of time, but also, maybe the way the world moved on?

    This is very exciting. And look at you and your husband in the newspaper photos! That story too, wove into how you might describe it to your father, the uniqueness of that relationship, all make for some important narrative.

    I have some more people I need to introduce to you who might suggest ways and maybe models for how to build the narrative.

    Keep on that road….

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  2. Hi Alan. Thanks, as always, for your encouragement and feedback! Yes, I’ve had some musings about how I might introduce this fantasy-like concept to readers and have them “buy-in” without being too hokey…I had a couple of thoughts to on how to “explain” the phenomenon but they’re a reach. You’re right maybe less explaining on the front end the better. My husband said my idea reminded him of the movie “Frequency.” Sci-fi stuff….not really where I’m going but interesting. One thing that keeps coming to mind is how the “me” I recreate will deal with the loss of my father if I am (at least in my mind) communicating with him. I mean, I would still grieve the loss of his presence but in a different way, I think. Here’s an interesting fact: to commemorate the 10-year anniversary of 9/11, I was asked by Glamour magazine to write a letter to my father. I did and it was published on their website. It’s still there. What a full-circle moment!! I haven’t thought about that letter until just now if you can believe it. I just reread it and can remember what I felt writing it then…..all that I had to fill him in on in just one letter….interesting.. So, yes paralleling the events of the world would be amazing…..also sounding like so much of a bigger challenge. Very Forrest Gump-like. But yes, the world moving on and my life evolving sounds right. I have to think on this……thanks again. talk soon

    https://www.glamour.com/story/letters-to-the-lost-a-tribute-to-those-who-died-in-the-september-11-2001-attacks

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  3. Just that you are uncovering a wealth of memories and markers like the Glamour article is a good sign.

    I will be asking a lot (of everyone in seminar) what is new, novel about your approach? Memoirs and dealing with grief have been well done. This might even fold back into your desire to create a genre. You do have some elements cooking, like the evolution over time. What else?

    That’s a good suggestion your husband had to look at film or other stories that dealt with plots of communicating with those who have died. Maybe “Ghost” too. Reviewing these kinds of plots may help your process of figuring out how to set up and design the conversations.

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