Friday Fictioneers with a Sting

Friday Fictioneers LogoThe influx of some spring-like (and summerish) weather doesn’t combine well with putting your butt in the chair and writing. The lure of outside is too strong. Yes, yes, I know I can take the laptop outside and enjoy the weather while writing, but what can I say. I’m easily distracted.

And this has been a week where we needed distraction from an all too intense reality. Boston has always been a city after my own heart. I loved the time I’ve spent there for work and for pleasure. I was just there in March for AWP, lamenting the fact the snowfall didn’t allow me to play tourist in Boston’s fine museums and art galleries.

So, take an intriguing photo, twenty-four hour news reporting about terrorists, and you get something pretty dark, even for me. So dark, in fact, I’ve impulsively decided not to post it. If this hadn’t been a week where the face of the inhumanity of terrorism was a smiling, eight-year-old boy, maybe the story would have been appropriate, but today it’s not. And I never censor myself or my writing; however, it’s a matter of sensitivity.

Instead of the first thing that came to mind, you have “Empty Nest Optimism” instead. If you don’t see the link to the story in the title, scroll to the top of this page, click on the Friday Fictioneers tab, then select the story from the drop-down list.

Friday Fictioneers is Sometimes a Challenge

Friday Fictioneers LogoThe talent of those who participate in Friday Fictioneers continues to amaze and delight me. Considering Friday Fictioneers founder, Madison Woods, left some very big shoes (figuratively, of course) to fill with her enticing dark fiction and her incredible photography, Rochelle Wisoff-Fields has taken over from Madison and carries the torch high. Her selection of photos has been quirky (in a good way), intriguing, and challenging, and the participating writers always take that challenge and make wonderful stories from it. Madison can relax in the knowledge she handed her “baby” off to an equally protective parent. The transition was smooth and seamless.

Today’s picture–mahalo, Doug McIlroy–is certainly quirky, intriguing, and challenging. I’m sure you’ll agree when you see it.

I occasionally make a political statement with my Friday Fictioneers story (and get the comments acknowledging that), but it’s not to persuade anyone to a specific point of view. Rather, I want to make people think about perceptions and whether what they think are universal truths are actually universal or true. This week’s story, “Status Update,” is about a religious extremist and a potential act of terror, so see if your assumptions about that match what you read.

If you don’t see the link on the story title above, scroll to the top of this post, click on the Friday Fictioneers tab, and select the story from the drop-down menu.

September 11, 2001

My first attempt to acknowledge this significant anniversary of an horrific event was far too self-indulgent to post. However, the emotions I had suppressed from September 11, 2001, began to come to the fore in the past two weeks. I wrote them down and will deal with them. Just not here. That would trivialize the deaths of thousands.

The closest I was to anything that happened on 9/11/01 was three miles–the Pentagon was just across the Potomac River from Washington, DC, where I worked for the Federal Aviation Administration. My actions that day and in the weeks after were those of support, and perhaps later I can tell that story.

People often remark that 9/11/01 was such a beautiful day–bright, sunny, cloudless–and that something so horrible shouldn’t have happened on such a glorious day. The fact is, the hijackers kept an eye on the weather; the horrible terror they perpetrated was easier on a visual flight rules day. How might things have changed had that day dawned cloudy and dreary.

The scenario the terrorists opted for could have cost tens of thousands of lives, and some have sighed in relief that it was only 3,000 or so. That is survivor guilt, that is the expostulation of someone relieved they were no where near New York City, Arlington, VA, or Shanksville, PA, that day.

I know the emotion of ten years without a loved one, and it heals; it gets better; but the hole never closes. I was an adult when I lost my parents nearly thirty years ago, so I can’t relate to losing a parent when you’re ten or fifteen or two. The lost opportunities to see school plays, sports events, weddings, births of grandchildren are weights hard to bear.

I hated the fact that religious zealots used as an instrument of destruction the industry I’d given most of my life to preserve, and yet, as I reviewed the pilot records for each of the hijackers, I saw typical men who trained typically as pilots. Nothing jumped off the page to shout “Terrorist!” Life is never that simple.

“Why?” is the question still asked about 9/11/01. As with other acts of terrorism, like, say 4/19/95, we take the easy, un-intellectual route–the perpetrators were evil. We never look beyond, into the black box of the psyche of terrorism so we can stop the next 9/11/01. We react. Restricting the carriage of liquids on board an aircraft, taking your shoes off at the TSA checkpoint, getting groped by perfect strangers doesn’t really prevent anything. It’s a false security. To me it’s a bitter reminder that we gave up freedoms to feel safe. Not be safe. Just to feel as if we are protected. We never once, as a nation, as a government, stopped to reflect on which of our policies or actions contributed to this.

You see, terrorism doesn’t happen in a vacuum. We like the neat package of “Oh, they were evil! That’s why they did it.” We know how and who and where. We’ll never know, nor do we want to, why.

If we want to honor those who died ten years ago today–from the people on Flight 93 who took their destinies into their own hands to the first responders who gave full dedication to their duty to those who died merely because they came to work that day–let’s re-dedicate ourselves to public service, to re-creating a nation of the people, by the people, for the people.