Tag Archives: 9/11

My Q&A with Novelist Ellen Meeropol

10 Jul

IMG_0465

I’m so excited to have interviewed Ellen Meeropol, author of House Arrest, On Hurricane Island, and Kinship of Clover for the Hobart Festival of Women Writers. I’m fascinated by the questions her novels pose about where the government should draw the line between keeping our nation safe and terrorizing our own citizens as well as how far is too far when it comes to activism.

Here’s the promotional copy for On Hurricane Island:

As a major hurricane threatens the northeast, math professor Gandalf Cohen is abducted by federal agents and flown to a secret interrogation center off the coast of Maine. Austin Coombs, a young local resident, is a newly hired civilian guard assigned to the detention center. Henry Ames, a man of personal secrets, is the FBI special agent in charge of Gandalf’s case and doubts the professor’s terrorist involvement; Tobias, his second-in-command, disagrees, preferring violent interrogation. As the hurricane slams the shore, conflict detonates and each character must choose a side if they’re to survive the storm.

Told over the five days approaching the anniversary of 9/11, by varying voices on both extremes of the political divide, On Hurricane Island is both a fast-paced political thriller and a literary examination of the sociopolitical storm facing our society. How far should government go in the name of protecting our national security? What happens when governmental powers of surveillance and extra-legal interrogation are expanded? How free are we?

Ellen Meeropol has worked as a daycare teacher and women’s reproductive health counselor before becoming a nurse practitioner. It was in her twenty-four years working at a children’s hospital that she began authoring and co-authoring articles and book chapters focused on pediatric issues and latex allergy. The nursing honor society Sigma Theta Tau honored her for excellence in nursing journalism, and she received the Ruth A. Smith Writing Award for excellence in writing in the profession of nursing. She went on to receive the Chair’s Excellence Award from the Spina Bifida Association of America for her advocacy around latex allergy and spina bifida. In 2000, Meeropol decided to pursue a life of letters in earnest and earned her MFA from the Stonecoast Program at the University of Southern Maine. She didn’t leave behind her advocacy though: her novel Kinship of Clover involves a character who has spina bifida.

You can read my conversation with Ellen Meeropol here.

For more Q&As with the Hobart Festival of Women Writers, visit the Festival blog.

Register for the wonderful weekend of writing and community in the Catskills, and sign up for workshops by Ellen, me, and others here.

How much power should the government have to keep our country safe–what if it means less privacy and less due process? What cause would you break the law for? Let me know in the comments below.

Advertisements

From the Inside Out: Harrowing Escapes from the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center

11 Sep

9781566493840_p0_v2_s260x420

If you’re looking for an insider’s perspective on September 11, check out From the Inside Out: Harrowing Escapes from the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center. The author, Erik O. Ronningen, was the last person to escape from the South Tower after it was attacked by terrorists.

Here’s the marketing copy for the book:

Erik Ronningen was on the 71st floor of the North Tower on September 11, 2001 when American Airlines Flight 767 struck the building. After an incredible, even miraculous journey down through the acrid, smoke-filled building lit by occasional fireballs, Erik tried to get to the Security Command Center in the South Tower. Unable to do so, he was the last person to make it out of the South Tower alive.

Here is the story of his harrowing escape interwoven with the accounts of fourteen others who were lucky enough to be able to recount them.

Altogether, these accounts document the bravery and heroism, selflessness and generosity demonstrated by hundreds of people when their normal everyday lives were suddenly plunged into a fiery scramble for survival.

The astonishing photograph on the cover of this book was taken by survivor Jim Usher as he lay on the concrete outside the WTC losing consciousness, so his family could see what he saw during what he thought were the last moments of his life. And yes, that flag was really there! This photograph has never before been made public.

I happen to know the agent, who gave me an early draft of the book to read about two years ago, and I remember being impressed by the grand scope of the story. There are parts of it that have stuck with me — not only the scenes of fireballs in the elevator, but more so the quieter moments that personalize the story. Piercing the trauma are profound demonstrations of loyalty and love.

I sat down with the author, agent, and publisher, Welcome Rain, a few weeks ago, right before it went to press. The excitement buzzed in the air, as they told me about its progress and the never-before-made-public photograph being used for the cover. Last week I picked up a copy signed by the author.

The book has historical and personal importance. The stories told in the book are by people who made it out of the Twin Towers alive, but I think we all have a 9/11 story….

Never Forget

11 Sep

In remembrance of September 11, here is the Church Hopping post I had done on St. Nicholas Church at the World Trade Center.

Clip: A Time to Build

28 Mar

In case you missed it, the art I curated for Burnside’s latest “A Time to…” series posted last week. This one’s on “A Time to Build.”

It shows a photograph of the two beams of light that serve as a reminder of the Twin Towers. I began working in Manhattan a month after 9/11. I used to see these light sculptures all the time while walking in the Village. I don’t remember them being discontinued, but I do remember how they stopped me in my tracks when I saw them turned on again at the ten-year anniversary date of the attacks. The lights may represent the physical buildings that were lost and honor those who lost their lives, but for me they also are a symbol of hope and resilience. The light pierces the darkness, showing that sometimes the intangible is more powerful than the physical.

9/11: Church Hopping at St. Nicholas Church at the World Trade Center

11 Sep

Last year Burnside Writers Collective published my Church Hopping article on St. Nicholas, the Greek Orthodox church that was lost in the terrorist on September 11, 2001.  If you missed it, you can read about it here.

Recently, Patrick J. Foye, Executive Director of the Port Authority, said: “The new World Trade Center will not be whole and complete until the St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church is rebuilt.”  You can read about Archbishop Demetrios’ visit to the construction site, where he “stopped in front of the site where St. Nicholas is to be built at the corner of Liberty and Greenwich streets (the south-east corner of WTC),” on the site for the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America.

Parallel Generations

19 Jul

Why is Hollywood taking an interest in the Lost Generation and the Beat Generation?  Are there parallels between the generations of the past and today’s generations?  Is history cyclical?

From a historic standpoint, it makes sense that today’s generations are looking back at the Lost Generation and the Beat Generation.  Like the Lost Generation, the current generation has experienced war.  Although the Lost Generation predates the Great Depression by a few years, novels such as The Great Gatsby have much to say about the disparity of wealth, a topic that this generation has dealt with during the Great Recession.  Part of the seedy wealth distribution of the ‘20s had to do with bootlegging.  Prohibition may not be something today’s candidates have on the table, but there’s a definite right-wing conservatism bent influencing culture today.

The Beat Generation writers were those who were born around the time of the Great Depression and came of age during World War II.  Kerouac and John Clellon Holmes actually were thinking of the Lost Generation when they came up with the idea that they were the Beat Generation.  The obvious parallels between the two generations being the world wars.  While the Lost Generation was going into the Great Depression, the Beat Generation was coming out of it, and so while the Lost Generation was more about decadence the Beat Generation was more about simplicity.  Perhaps, then, today’s older generation is looking toward the Lost Generation and the younger generation looking towards the Beat Generation for confirmation on the way we live our lives.

After all, generations have followed suit in this pattern of economy and war since these generations.  The Baby Boomers were all about the money, and then Generation X was the slacker generation.

Since then we’ve seen Generation Y, also known as the Millennials or Generation Next, who are often thought of as privileged Trophy Kids.  These are the eighties babies (give or take) that are now in their twenties, a few even in their thirties.

Generations X and Y heard Reality Bites, My So-Called Life, and Fight Club tell us our great war was within ourselves.  –And then the terrorist attacks took place on 9/11.  It was around that time that Generation Y turned to indie music, the locavore movement, and reviving arts and crafts.

After that came Generation Z, or Generation I, the kids born in the ‘90s, for whom the Internet, the War on Terror, and the Great Recession are a way of life.  Generations Y and Z are the i-generation, each having their own personal computers, finding fame on blogs and in social media, the generation that is connected and disconnected.  They began looking back at Generation X, wearing flannel.  Miley Cyrus was photographed wearing a Nirvana t-shirt.

The Pew Research Center has a fascinating report that charts the different Generations’ attitudes toward politics, religion, immigration, marriage, and more.

Technology is developing at a faster and faster rate, and with it, generations are shortening and multiplying.  When you think about it, iphones models are even called by their generation, as in the second generation iphone, acknowledging how much generations are defined by technology, as well as money and politics.  Therefore, it’s easy to see how certain generations blend together, which may also be a result, as the Pew Research Center data seems to suggest, of the delayed adulthood.

What generation do you identify with?

Clip: Church Hopping: St. Nicholas Church at the World Trade Center

3 Oct

As the debate rages on over whether the Muslim community center Park51, better known by the misnomer the “Ground Zero Mosque,” should be allowed to be constructed near the former cite of the World Trade Center, little media attention has gone to the one house of worship that actually was destroyed in the terrorist attacks of September 11: St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church.  Established by immigrants, the small Greek Orthodox church had served the spiritual needs of Lower Manhattan since 1916, just shy of a hundred years.  St. Nicholas was destroyed indirectly when the South Tower fell on it during the attacks of 9/11.  With religion at the center of debates over whether a Muslim community center should be built so close to where the Islamic militant group Al-Qaeda attacked and whether there should be any sort of clergy prayer at the ten-year anniversary, why has the Greek Orthodox church’s destruction gone under-reported?  Why are people who profess themselves Christian more invested in keeping a Muslim community center at bay than in rebuilding and growing a Christian church?  Is Greek Orthodox not Christian enough?

You can read my full Church Hopping article on St. Nicholas Church at the World Trade Center on Burnside Writers Collective.