I never set out to write a book about 9/11. Even as I read the pages of my work-in-progress, I know this to be true. To divulge too much about this story might ruin the mystery, so I won't say too much. But as Aaron Starmer writes in the final book of the The Riverman trilogy: "Most stories, especially difficult ones, are a mix of truth and lies."
My novel is a work of fiction, but within the lies I've constructed to create a future world, which may not truly exist, I've told truths. I've written about the before, about the after, and I've written about that time when the moment of before and after feels tangible; a hinge between the two.
September 11, 2001 has always felt like one of those hinge moments. I was nine the day the towers fell, when terrorism became real, when our world was changed. My mom and I have been glued to the tv watching footage, listening to phone calls filled with frantic messages of fear and love, in much the same way we were fifteen years before. The only exception is now I understand. Or I understand better. I don't think I'll every wrap my mind around atrocity and evil within humanity. But now I get the impact of the fall as the minutes count down. I know how the world will change. I know the danger doesn't end when the dust settles.
My novel includes this notion of before and after. The main character exists in the after, while those older understand that hinge moment. We'll call one of those elders Penelope, and for the purposes of placing time, we'll say she is from the millennial generation. In my novel, her granddaughter finds a poem she wrote (written by me). The title, "All That is Aureate, or What We Call Goodbye," is something I will leave here as a reminder of the importance of goodbye, the power of remembering; fifteen years have passed, and yet we remember.
All That is Aureate, or What We Call Goodbye
In the sky, you saw people flying
to places you would never find. You couldn’t leave that town
after you swore true love. Your heart was too strong. But now
it’s today. You see those landing lights, and believe they’re stars.
Make a wish on shooting souls to feel alive. Those lights are
not descended from djinn, and yet, they descend.You’ll get only
one wish from distant ghosts; celestial deities lost to time. But,
Lari, those things can’t come true. When planes fall they don’t bring
magic. They change whole worlds, sure. But they won’t fix you. So
you’ll crack; people are porcelain, pieced together after brokenness;
light licks through crooked lines. The world beyond you is gold, but
cannot stay, just like he wrote.
You’ll watch over the day: sunset bleeds over a too blue sky, an
aureate aura of amber and azure. People pass on bridges. You wander,
unwatched because you’re a shell, you go invisible. If you were to shatter,
your parts would be much too heavy to scatter. You’re stuck in a town you
once believed could hold your heart forever. And this day of dying will go and
come back in ash beneath your fingertips. Draw the circle, keep them safe. Swipe soot
from their skulls, cross it over your own cranial convergence lines. There
were no signs you could see. It was the day before Wednesday, and they
walked, washed white with smoke and silt from skeletons. People prefer to
find whole, perfect shells when they wander the beach. Now they search only
for scraps, footprints in soot; step where before they we were alive. This
is the place of the dead: a museum, a memorial, a
by Kayla King // Penelope
Each year, on this day especially, we are all reminded that life is tenuous, that things descend, that we all must say goodbye. And in my novel (now that I've begun the arduous process of revision) I see they way world events seep into everything,
including my work. The events of September 11, 2001 exist like echoes, and because I can’t forget, I choose to remember this way.