“The Quin & I”

If we ever met, we’d probably disagree on just about everything.

Pulitzer Prize winner and former NY Times columnist Anna Quindlen may be tagged a “flaming liberal” by some.  And I’m not.  But I love her work.

From Blessings to One True Thing to Black and Blue to Rise and Shine, Quindlen is an amazing writer with a prodigious talent.  She has an extraordinary ability to create plots and characters that are compelling and quixotic, beautiful and hair-rising, startling and sterling.  So when I came across Loud and Clear (Random House, 2004) in the library recently, Quindlen’s collection of “wisdom, opinions, insights, and reflections about current events and modern life,” I snapped it up like a hen after a June bug.

I only “argued” with about half the book, but all of it made me stretch, evaluate, challenge, grow, ponder and re-think.  Standard tools of the trade for Quindlen.

So, what does Quindlen’s Loud and Clear have to do with the approach 9/11, a date that, borrowing a phrase from FDR, “shall live in infamy”?

In the closing section of the book, Soul, Quindlen offers a column from December 2001 titled Weren’t We All So Young Then? In it she writes about the twin towers as well as people “conceived in hubris in the halcyon days after World War II…” and bemoans the “charmed deluded life we led!”  In sensitive, evocative prose, Quindlen, a New Yorker, describes an intense sense of grief and loss:

“… it is possible… to stand on Greenwich north of Canal and imagine that in the darkness to the south stand the twin towers of the Trade Center.  It is just that someone has forgotten to put the lights on, leaving the two giants to brood invisible in the night.”

Quindlen continues, describing the “utter blankness, the blue sky and scudding clouds above acres of jagged debris, that stun me as I stand for the first time amid the cops, the construction workers and the tourists.  ‘It sounds so stupid’” she says to a police officer, “But I just can’t believe it’s gone.”

Quindlen describes how people are “changed forever by grief”, that they “change the way the world is, the kind of place it becomes” and that “Getting on with life is not the same as getting over loss.”  She says :

“…if I found myself weeping as the cloud passed overhead where they once gave way to infinite shafts of steels and glass, it was not for the buildings and not only for the dead buried beneath their ruins.”

The sense of loss is heavy and hard and far-reaching.  Quindlen describes  the post-9/11 loss of  “… a time and a feeling as cocksure as the notion that two towers could rise high enough to nestle their heads in the clouds.  It was for all of us who were so young once, in August,” she says, “and will never feel that young again.”

If we ever meet, Anna and I just might agree on a whole lot.


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