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September 11th

Can’t really let the day slip by without looking at its significance. All my life, 11 September has been important because it’s my dad’s birthday. And then, when I was 25, it became important in a different way, both to me and the rest of the world. I was a newlywed at the time, and starting what I expected to be my career in publishing . . . I worked at Houghton Mifflin (now Houghton Mifflin Harcourt), and in the aftermath—I won’t go into all of what I went through that particular day, since I’ve said it all before—one of the girls I worked with had the idea of putting together a kind of chapbook to raise money for the Red Cross. It was called Indelible: Art, Poems, and Prose in Response to the September 11th Crisis. I gladly handed over three poems. (Admittedly, though, I’m not much of a poet.) Terri Windling, Robert Gould, Brian Froud all contributed as well. I remember feeling honored to be included with them.

The core, for me, being that I worked in children’s textbooks at the time, was the bizarre sense that I would now be a “primary source” of information. (One of my poems in the chapbook was titled, “Primary Sources.”) Up until that time, in my lifetime there had been very little of note, nothing that stood out as having the need to bear witness—that is, nothing had happened, that I could see, that would prompt children to one day ask me, “Where were you when . . .?” or “What was it like?”

Then again, maybe no one will ask anyway. With so much of our history recorded and stored elsewise, people, with their faulty memories, needn’t be the key source of information any longer. Our memories are now second-rate, which is kind of sad. They’ve lost their cachet. And what are people for, then, if not to pass on experience from one generation to the next?



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