An example of fresh commentary

I turned on PBS for my kids on Tuesday, September 11 and got myself a cup of coffee. My husband ran back inside after starting his car and said, 'Turn on the TV, something's happening at the World Trade Center.' I left the kids to teletubbies in one room and turned on the TV in the other. We're a few hours behind New York and it took a long time for me to understand that a plane had crashed into the first tower.

I thought, 'What a fluke. What an awful flukey accident.' Then I saw the second plane approach. Dummy me. Yep, that's the defining moment.

And thank God for Public Television. They kept Mr. Rogers and Arthur and Teletubbies and Zaboomafoo and Reading Rainbow and Sesame Street on all day - their normal programming - so the kids could watch something safe while their mother fell apart in the next room.

It's that last detail...the PBS programming...that makes this compelling. Since I have no children, it never crossed my mind kids would need something safe to watch. If this was part of a writing sample it would strike me as a fresh take on something I'd heard already.

Since it happened to you, you don't have to imagine it of course, but if you are writing, the next layer after"what happens" is often where you find the things that makes your work fresh.


Gina Black said...

I obviously live in an altered dimension. Fresh take? This is one of the points that PBS hits hard PLEDGE drive after PLEDGE drive. They (we?) call it a "safe harbor."

Another note is that this was not true in all markets. Where I live the children's programming was preserved in the mornings when it normally airs. But during the afternoon and evening, we aired the planes crashing into the buildings over, and over, and over, and over.... I can't remember now, but it might have been the BBC feed that we took. I sat there in Master Control, directing air operations. Seeing that again and again and again truly wrecked me.

M. G. Tarquini said...

My public station kept on the kid's program all the way up until 6:00 when the news begins. No other station had any coverage other than those planes. Even the Home Shopping Network switched to news coverage.

A prayer of gratitude to the Gods of Microwave Meals for Kids probably isn't out of order, either.

Thanks, Miss Snark. Your comments are appreciated. I'll take them to heart.

Anonymous said...

Within a few hours of the tragedy, Americans had a fair idea what was happening on 9/11. But many parts of Eastern Europe, people were in still the dark and were receiving conflicting information. When I spoke to my girlfriend in Ukraine, she was worried about me. She saw the planes crashing into the twin towers, the buildings falling, but the news agencies in Ukraine provided limited information on the extent of what had happened. I lived in Arizona, but to her I was just as much in danger as if I had lived in Manhattan because American was under attack.

Her whole family sat around the television all day waiting for more news. When I did finally managed to call her, she cried for ten minutes until I told her everything was going to be alright. But was it really?

So 9/11 had, and still does, have far more impact on other people than just Americans.

The Green Cedar said...

Regardless of what happened in what market or in the non-U.S. part of the world or in somebody else's family room: thank you for the lesson about writing and the "next layer".

Anonymous said...

Cynthia writes ...

I read with interest the iconic moments post and thought immediately of 9/11. Since the talk has moved to children, I'll add a wrinkle. My iconic moment of 9/11 was actually the day before.

My husband and I were waiting on word from China about our baby girl we were adopting. I remember on 9/10 how I drove to work and looked up with joy at all the jet contrails in the blue September sky. I kept thinking, "Wow! One day soon, maybe WE'LL be on a jet to China to meet our little one."

The very next day, as I was backing out of our garage to go into work, I heard the NPR coverage of 9/11. Never again did I look at jet contrails with joy.

In fact, the only other iconic moment I had during our adoption wait was the day George Bush announced we were bombing Afghanistan. I grabbed up my baby's comforter that my mom and I had stitched, and I cried, so sure I'd never meet my daughter.

A happy postscript: we met our daughter in March of 2002, and she is the joy and light of our lives.

Thank you, Miss Snark, for reminding us that in our writing, it's the twist on the ordinary that makes it special. We have to crawl in our characters' skins and know what motivates them. Without that, no reader can relate.

Miss Audrey said...

As I read this post and these comments I'm left feeling the brunt of the tragedy of what happened in New York City all over again.

I can appreciate the different slant that PBS broadcasting and the 'safe place' for the children brought to the story, but in my world view of what happened, it rips and slashes at my heart.

In all actuality the problem was, that there really was nowhere safe for the children.

In shocked disbelief I packed my three young children off to school. After all, I lived across the entire country from what was going on in New York. Or so people assumed. Who was to say that the destruction was going to be limited to the East Coast?

What really baffled me, besides for the nightmare of it all, was that there was no Emergency Alert System alarms going off telling me that they were blowing up New York!

The greatest 'slant' was two towers that were no more.

Lyn Cash said...

Interesting illustration. Decorators tell us "it's in the details"; lawyers tell us to read the fine print (just read your nitwit of the day - ROFL); and try making a recipe minus a key ingredient or two. Pity more of us (I include myself) don't pay more heed to the details within our stories that make the difference.