"It was imprudent of us, in the first place, to become authors. We could have become something regular, but we managed not to.
We were lucky, but we were also determined." Roy Blount Jr

"I don’t change the facts to enhance the drama. I think of it the other way round, the drama has got to fit the facts,
and it’s your job as a writer to find the shape in real life."
Hilary Mantel

Monday, September 11, 2006


I don't like to look back on what happened five years ago today. It's still too fresh. Perhaps because this morning, like that one, was cool and clear, with the bluest blue sky ever. The similarity was heartbreaking, and brought it all back with unbearable clarity: the shock, the horror, disbelief, tears. And loneliness most of all.

My husband had flown off the day before, on a business trip to the Midwest. He was trapped there all week, and eventually rented a car and drove home, across country.

I had nobody to cling to, except Lola and Shadow, and nobody else to talk to, except by phone.

My parents were in Scotland, far away from the devastation, but desperately worried about their children and extended family. I kept checking in with all the relatives--in Manhattan, in Washington, DC--and phoning the updates to Kintyre. Several people I knew were in Manhattan that day, in addition to my editors and agent. My friend Tess Gerritsen was on her national book tour, stuck out in Seattle. We emailed a lot.

After all the planes were grounded, there were no more contrails in the daytime sky, and no flickering airplane lights high, high among the stars at night.

I attended a church service on the night of the 12th. I had to force myself to leave the house, and was terrified driving home alone at night.

I worried about overseas travel, because we'd just booked flights to London and Paris.

What has changed since then? Our lifestyle is much the same, but in some essential way we mentally downsized. The Chap altered his job so he could focus on the part he liked best. I blended more nonfiction writing and even some film production into my usual fiction writing activities. Consequently, I cut down on the number of fiction writers' conferences I attended, keeping only my favourites--which happen to be the ones in New York. We began volunteering a lot more, with church, diocese, and nonprofits, and our lives are the richer for it. And we've got a lot more friends. I'm rather nervous when we stay on the uppermost floor of a tall hotel. I always know where exits are. I pay obsessive attention to my fellow travellers on airplanes, trains, and busses, whether at home or abroad. Lola is still here, my comforting companion on 9/11, but Shadow is gone and we now have Ruth.

What didn't change? Our hopes that peace and amity among the people of the world is attainable, despite all appearances to the contrary. We never stopped travelling. Since that awful day five years ago, I've been to France, Austria, Slovakia and the Czech Republic. I've returned to the UK six times, and Ireland twice. The Chap still continues his TransAtlantic commuting as necessary.

I finally saw Ground Zero about eighteen months ago. I avoided it for years, and didn't go there deliberately. We were in that part of Lower Manhattan, and we wanted to see St. Paul's Church (the memorials and shrines inside are indescribable). The World Trade site is impossible to avoid. I kept my eyes averted as best I could, and absolutely hated the carnival atmosphere and all the rubber-neckers and people taking pictures. I don't blame them, I just didn't understand that desire.

Sometimes it seems like it all happened only yesterday. And sometimes it seems like a lifetime ago.

Chipmunk Update

Yesterday I successfully re-hydrated him, and was pleased to see him eat at intervals, though he slept a lot. This morning he has alternated between sleeping and activity. He's eaten grapes, raisins, safflower seeds, and bread crumbs, and is able to hold food with both claws--although the right one doesn't work. He drinks water from the dish now, on his own. His digestive system is working. I think the right arm is better than it was, the hand is still curled under but only slightly now. It's "fingers" still don't work, but I'm hoping for improvement. That doesn't prevent him from running, digging up leaves, and even jumping up to the top of the cage. At times today he has been extremely lively--cabin fever, I'm sure. He's made no attempt to eat an acorn yet, however.

Based on his progress so far, I can release him back to his outdoor habitat fairly soon, and without too much concern.

All his jumping about has alerted Ruth to his presence. She'll just have to deal with it. Given her chipmunk obsession, I should think she'd be pleased having one around.

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