Tuesday, October 20, 2009

The Tragedies of Picture-Perfect Days

By Pat Remick

A perfect fall day – the piercingly blue cloudless sky, the gentle warmth from the sunlight dappling the trees, and the air crisp from the tiniest hint of cool weather to come.

Those of us who live in the Northeast can never forget that September 11, 2001, began as a picture-perfect days like this. By the time it ended, our world had changed forever.

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?


Annette said...

Wow. What a moving post, Pat.

It's not so much the type of day, but rather a regular trip I make that stirs unease in my heart.

Two and a half years ago, I returned from a weekend Pennwriters board of directors meeting to the news that, while I was away, my cousin and her husband had been in a horrific car crash leaving him dead and her in a coma, not expected to live. I knew nothing about it until I walked in my front door and was greeted by my husband's haunted face.

So now, everytime I go to one of these meetings...or more specifically, when I come home from one, I get a bit creeped out until I establish that nothing dreadful happened while I was away.

Jena said...

We live by a lake in central Alberta, where it can be 100 in the summer, and -40 in the winter.

Nothing is as glorious as a sunny day in late April when the ice turns slushy, breaks up, and slips below the water's surface.

Nothing breaks my heart more than seeing the geese starting to flock up to head south - except seeing them walking on the thin ice of early October.

Gina said...

Funny. I didn't remember anything about the weather on September 11, although I certainly remember where I was. I was driving into downtown Pittsburgh for a hearing before a Public Utility Commission administrative law judge when I heard about the first plane on the car radio. By the time I pulled into the parking garage, the second plane had struck the Twin Towers and reporters were beginning to realize that this was more than just a tragic accident. My first inkling that something else had happened came after the hearing had started - at the State Office Building - from the sound of tramping feet in the stairwells as people evacuated the building. A guard came into the hearing room and told us that a plane had turned back over Ohio and was heading our way. The judge called a halt to the proceedings and we evacuated, too.

PatRemick said...

Annette, so sorry about your loss.

Gina, our 9/11 memories are different but as frightening. Even today, I find it difficult to believe that such a thing could happen.

I like Jena's weather-related memories best -- because the geese will (hopefullY) always come back!

Joyce said...

Beautiful post.

I can't think of any kind of day that reminds me of something else.

On 9/11 I was at work in a cinder block police station, so I paid little attention to the weather.