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.
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.