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    My daily writing--emails, journal entries, marginalia, more emails, blog posts, and tweets--shapes me as a writer, helping and hindering the big stuff I'm trying to accomplish. Every word counts.

    My name is James Black. I'm on Facebook and Twitter. Friend and/or follow me if you like.

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On this day a few years ago, I sent an email to some friends asking for them to share their experiences of 9/11/2001. One of them wrote about being in New York that day. Another friend shared that she was in Israel, where the locals didn’t understand her feeling of horror since violence is common there.

Of course, I wanted to share my story, but I held back because it’s not that interesting. I found out about the attack on the World Trade Center while waiting in line to buy a bagel. The manager at the snack bar mentioned it as she rushed from her office to change a $20 bill for quarters. I imagined a Cessna crumbling against steel, maybe cracking some windows. Maybe I knew I was wrong and noticed the manager was in a big rush to get back to the TV, or maybe I’m adding that now. Regardless, it’s not much of a story.

The story that interested me, and the one that I told, was about people who lost people they loved. Lost them. Gone. What surprised me–although it shouldn’t have–was that the news coverage on 9/11/2001 and in the days following suggested a hierarchy of relationships. Immediate relatives and married partners were in the top tier. Distant relatives, unmarried opposite-sex partners, and friends were in the second tier.

Same-sex partners didn’t fit into the hierarchy and seemed not to exist. They learned that their partners were gone by hearing news from their non-in-laws, if they were on speaking terms, or by realizing the loss after so many unanswered cell phone calls. Suddenly alone, they couldn’t claim their lost family as family; they had no legal right to the body, could do little more than imagine their partners carried off with the rubble. The compassion showed to them depended on the humanity of their partners’ families and employers, and on the kindness of legislators (few have been kind to them).

This is what I remember of 9/11/2001. In related news, the events of that day led to two wars that are still going on, long after the mission was supposedly accomplished. Not that those wars are in the news much anymore. You may have assumed they were imaginary. So I thought I’d mention them, to make them as imaginary as the hum of rushing blood in a moment of silence.


One Response

  1. Thank you, James. Your words moved me.

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