Friday, September 10, 2010

How Will This Story Be Written?

As a general rule, I hate to use cliches, but I can't find a non-cliche way of saying that the world changed on 11 September, 2001. I spend a great deal of time thinking about the events of that day. I try to place those events in context - any context - to better understand their meaning. I'm not sure that I ever will.

It is often mentioned, especially at this time of the year, that nearly 3,000 people died as a result of the attacks that day. I cannot limit that tragedy to that number. If there is a way to quantify loss, I cannot limit it 3,000. I have to add the loss of life in Iraq, Afghanistan, and anywhere else in the world someone has died as a result of that day nine years ago.

One of my personal and literary areas of interest is Herman Wouk, author of the World War II novels The Caine Mutiny, The Winds of War, and War and Remembrance. In the two-novel set The Winds of War and War and Remembrance, Wouk examines not just the war, but America, even the world, through with a lens focused on one fictional family, a Navy family, and their associates, as they navigate through life in various settings during the war. The novels are historically accurate and do a wonderful job of capturing the essence of America in the early 1940s. Wouk spent thirteen years conducting research for these novels and did not publish the first one until over 25 years after the war. In the nearly 2,000 pages of these two novels, Wouk tells the story by carefully selecting scenes and even moments that best demonstrate the struggles of that era.

Someone will write the story of this era in novel form. It may be years from now, but someone will do it (Wouk is not the only person to have done this; many others have with varying degrees of success for other wars).

It seems to me like this novel about the first decade of the 21st century could begin in the aftermath of the attacks. It might include the return of baseball and air travel. It has to look at the emotional trauma of military deployments - the sadness of departure and the joy of returns. Obviously, the author has to deal with the tragic and staggering loss of life in Iraq and Afghanistan. Detainee abuse should be included as should the role of enhanced interrogation techniques. There might be a place for the feelings, thoughts, and emotions of the American people after every report of a plane crash (what was the first thing you thought when you heard about a plane in the Hudson River in January 2009?). What about the DC sniper in October of 2002? Scenes from Arlington Natational Cemetary? PTSD?

I ask you, what scenes and moments should be included in that novel?