You see, the important thing about that ticket is the ticket itself. The travel date, printed in simple, black, emotionally detached lettering, is September 10th, 2001, the day before Everything Changed.
One cannot, I suppose, help thinking, “If I had decided to stay an extra day or two, my trip back to Chicago would have been very, very different.”
Everyone in this country over the age of 10 has their own story about where they were when the news of the 9/11 attacks first reached them. To be sure, I have my own tale of being far up in a Loop skyscraper and having to evacuate the building – along with the denizens of almost every other Loop skyscraper – but I will save those details for another time, another mood, and maybe another drink. For that is unavoidably a part of our group trauma, our group sadness, our group madness. In this journal, I want to tell you the part of the story that is utterly personal, and that means I have to go back to the date to which I am led by that fading ticket stub.
I told you I couldn’t remember a single detail about the visit to Michigan, and I meant it. But I can tell you something about the train ride itself. I did something during that ride that I’ve never done before or since on such a journey – I wrote, by which I mean I wrote a lot. Page after page after page. And I wrote something of a genre I had never attempted before nor attempted since – I wrote a children’s book.
This was not planned. I didn’t even bring along proper writing supplies. My words were written on various mismatched scraps of paper; everything from envelopes to shopping lists to personal correspondence. But the words were pouring out of me in a rare torrent that day, and I felt it was important to keep them flowing.
I know that the book was written in rhyming couplets. I also know that it was essentially complete by the time we pulled into Union Station, save for a few blanks to be filled in later. But that’s about all I can tell you about it. I really don’t recall what it was about.
Did I lose what I wrote? Throw it away? No and no. I still have it. It’s tucked away in the same zippered pocket of the same suitcase I slipped it into that day. But I have never once picked it up to re-read since that day six years ago. Maybe it’s garbage. Maybe it’s good. But those little pieces of paper appear now to be the repository of my 9/11 trauma. I truly want to read it; see if it’s worth anything to me after all this time; see if it’s worth finishing. But I’m not ready yet. I suspect that one day I will suddenly pick it up and dive into it, with little forethought. Until then, it serves as a reminder to me that I am part of a land that has been violated, and that such violations can never truly heal. Rather, my task is to accommodate the scars and accept ownership of them.
If my attitude towards all of this seems a tad neurotic, then so be it. One man’s “neurosis” is another man’s “inner voice.” I regard the distinction between the two, in this case anyway, to be semantic in nature. In the landscape of my psyche, I merely seek the roads to honesty and peace, and wish only for the courage to take them where they may lead.