Today is the 10th anniversary of a devastating tragedy that has forever changed the lives of millions and the way of life we once knew in the US. My special guest today is Artie Van Why, author of THAT DAY IN SEPTEMBER which chronicles his personal experience of 9/11. He worked across from the World Trade Center and was there in the streets that morning.
Artie is here to share his thoughts on the days leading up to this anniversary.
My emotions have been all over the map these past weeks as the anniversary gets closer. I'm very aware of the unwarranted pressure I have put on myself in regard to how I personally observe that day. Try as I might, there's really nothing I can do that would be enough in my mind's eye. So I've tried to do what I can; when I can. I have done a number of interviews (for newspaper, radio and TV) which I'm grateful for. It still, to this day, means so much to me to be able to tell my story. I spoke to the whole student body of a high school here in Lancaster, PA on Sept 9.
In spite of these opportunities I have felt strongly about being able to do something significant on the anniversary itself. For me, that means being able to witness to the memory of that day. It means sharing what the struggle has been like in the years since 9/11. I guess you could compare it to a eulogy. I just feel the need to acknowledge the day, and my place in it, publicly. Not for the attention, or to make it about me.... although I guess there's a selfish element since doing it would cause me to feel better. But when I try to think of what I can possibly do to honor the memory of those who died, my words are all I have to offer.
I'm grateful that my play, from which my book is adapted (also titled That Day In September), was performed on Saturday, Sept. 9, as a benefit for the WTC Survivors Network (an organization that has been very helpful to me). I participated in a talkback afterwards, along with the actor who played me. But that still leaves me with the need to speak on the actual anniversary. I don't know how to convey the importance of that to me.
And now that the anniversary is approaching, it seems everyone wants to talk about it. I have very mixed emotions about this. On the one hand, I'm grateful for the nationwide recognition of the day but on the other hand it angers me that it takes an anniversary for people to show interest. I understand that... but I also know that, come Monday, Sept. 12, no one will be asking me to tell my story as they have now. It's as if people will say "okay, that over. Now let's move on." I'm certainly all about moving on. But moving on doesn’t mean forgetting. I won't "forget" 9/11 like the majority of people will after the anniversary. Or rather I'll say they won't be consciously aware of it as I (and other survivors) am. There is not a day that goes by where I don't think of 9/11. I know there will never be enough tears to cry over the horrors I witnessed that day.
I’m fortunate in that I will be able to speak at a memorial ceremony that is taking place here in Lancaster on the anniversary. I will be able to deliver my "eulogy." In spite of having my book that people can read; or my play that people can see; there is still the need to talk about that day and my experience of it. Each time I’m able to do that I feel as if I’ve honored the memory of all those who died. It is, for me, a lying of flowers on their collective gravesites. I’m grateful I’ll be able to do that on this anniversary. It is my way of saying “I have not forgotten.”
Artie, thank you for sharing your story with us here today. We must not forgot, but hopefully be able to heal somewhat and continue for those who can’t.
Let me share a bit of background on Artie. Two months after that fateful day, he quit his job of 13 years and spent the next two years developing a one man theater piece (also entitled That Day In September). He performed this in LA and Off Broadway in New York. He moved to Lancaster, PA in 2003 to be closer to his retired parents. That move was a direct result of having lived through 9/11 as family became very important to him. Once in Lancaster, Artie adapted the script and published THAT DAY IN SEPTEMBER as a book in 2006.
Artie’s experience of 9/11, and how it has affected his life in the years following, is featured on the website of the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) to commemorate the 10th anniversary. The story behind the writing and publishing of his book is included, as well as a video of Artie talking about 9/11 and events that have followed for him. He was also interviewed for That Marketplace on NPR.
For more on Artie and his writing, you can find him on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/ThatDayInSeptember. THAT DAY IN SEPEMBER is available at Amazon, Goodreads, and Barnes & Noble
Here is a book trailer for THAT DAY IN SEPTEMBER.
Do you have memories of 9/11 you would like to share? Thank you for stopping by today. God Bless America, may we continue to grow stronger each day.