Hi, all. Did you feel the tremors where you are? Virginia was hit with a 5.9 earthquake on Tuesday, 8/23/11, and here in New York, we got a decent dose of it. The problem with something like that here is that memories of September 11 are still very fresh, even 10 years later, and anything out of the ordinary sends people into a panic. When you’re in a high-rise building in the middle of Manhattan and you feel the walls and floor swaying, you don’t think—you just get the hell out.
I was talking recently with someone about my memories of 9-11. We were sitting outside in her backyard and a fighter jet flew overhead. I explained to her how the sound of a fighter jet triggers memories for me of 9-11 and the aftermath. If you recall, all air traffic was suspended for weeks. Normally, in a place like NYC, airplanes and their familiar rumblings are pretty much a constant thing. For weeks after 9-11, the air was silent. Not a plane, not a helicopter, not a blimp could be heard. Just silence. It seemed as if even the birds knew to stay out the sky.
But every now and then during those dread-filled weeks and months, I’d hear the thunderous, window-shaking roar of a fighter jet going by. Now, maybe in places like Pensacola or Fort Dix, the sound of a fighter jet is commonplace. But not in NYC. Not over Manhattan or any of the five boroughs. Fighter jets in the air and army vehicles in the middle of Broadway were something quite surreal, something out of a film noir. Anyway, that sound is embedded in my brain and will forever be associated for me with that horrible event.
Why am I talking about this? Because it brought to mind another issue. After 9-11, many authors saw an opportunity to sell their writing. By making 9-11 a part of their novels, they knew that they would strike an emotional chord in readers. One of the questions that was brought up and discussed in the years that followed was: Is it appropriate or ethically acceptable to use 9-11 to sell books? I certainly don’t know how many writers chose to use it (I’m sure many did badly), but I personally haven’t seen it as often as I would have thought.
I began wondering what you all think about that? How do you feel about using a tragic event, such as 9-11 or Hurricane Katrina, as a theme, motif, or even backdrop? Is it right to do so? Or is it taking advantage of tragedy?