Tuesday, October 20, 2009
The Tragedies of Picture-Perfect Days
In my mind’s eye, I still see the dark sedans parked across the street that confirmed my fear that the American Airlines pilot who lived there was aboard one of the planes that slammed into the World Trade Center towers. Although I did not know him well, I was certain even then that my neighbor would never have flown that plane into a building, even at gunpoint. This could only mean that an unknown force of unspeakable evil was involved.
The terror and heartbreak of that horrific day left scars on us all. For me, they added to another wound that also refuses to heal – the pain of a similarly gorgeous autumn day two years earlier.
The foliage blaze of glory that greeted me as I drove out of the neighborhood with my son on that October morning remains seared into my memory. Trying to concentrate on the day’s to-do list led by his dental appointment, I nearly missed the approach of my cousin’s car from the other direction. I was late, as always, and considered not stopping. But her unexpected appearance was too unusual to ignore.
I hit the brakes, put the car in park and hurried toward her vehicle, which by now had turned around and parked behind me in the middle of the intersection. When I saw her face, I knew something was terribly wrong. I never expected to hear that her brother had been murdered.
This month marks the 10th anniversary of his tragic death at the age of 34. The man who stabbed him with an 8-inch fishing knife after the two argued outside a bar, and then drove away to leave my cousin bleeding to death in the middle of a darkened street, is petitioning to get out of prison early. The indescribable pain continues. I only hope this feeling adds a dimension to my crime fiction that reminds people of the humanity of the victims and the enduring grief of their loved ones.
On a lovely fall day not long ago, I glanced up at the unblemished blue sky and rather than be grateful for nature’s gift, I uttered a silent prayer that the perfect autumn day would end quickly and without tragedy.
When I told a friend about the unease I feel on such beautiful fall days, she admitted she feels it, too, after 9/11. Another acquaintance says she and her husband descrube them as "9/11 days." I suspect the term will end up in a book someday because so many of us would understand it. Dramatic events seem to have that kind of collective effect.
How about you? Do you have vivid memories that fill you with dread -- or better yet, with joy -- when you experience a certain type of day?